Plattsburgh State Hockey players, left to right, Ali Vakos, Jenny Kistner, Bridget Balisy and Alyssa Parke.
A fleur-de-lis was placed on a car by the hockey rink in the Field House parking lot, a symbol of good luck for right wing Jenny Kistner, the day of the NCAA Championships.
The NCAA Division III Tournament took place at the SUNY Plattsburgh Field House where the Lady Cards won their third national title, defeating Norwich 9-2 March 22, University of St. Thomas 0-1 in overtime March 21 and Williams College 4-1 March 15.
“For us to win a national championship is a very big deal,” said Ali Vakos, left wing. “That’s what you train your whole life for.
“To know that we have accomplished what we worked for is like a feeling we can’t explain.”
Vakos started training when she was 8 years old, four years after Kistner, defenseman Alyssa Parke and center Bridget Balisy.
Each of the players started because of their brothers and their overall interest in the sport. All four players played hockey with men and women, and ended up at SUNY Plattsburgh playing for the Lady Cardinals.
“I committed to Plattsburgh in my grade 12 year,” Balisy said. “I talked to coach (Krug) at one of the tournaments I had and visited the school, and I felt like this would be a good fit for me.
“I came here, and I enjoy it.”
The day of the game, the Lady Cardinals relaxed by listening to music and napping, while some like Kistner did homework to take their mind off the game at 7 p.m.
After eating a pre-game meal, the team met at the Field House two hours before for a warm up of hacky sack and soccer to get their legs going and their minds occupied.
The game against Norwich started off shaky as Norwich began with a 1-0 lead in the first period. The Lady Cardinals quickly retaliated when Balisy tyed the game and continued the cycle by ending up with a 2-1 lead. By the end of the game, Plattsburgh was up 8 - 2, winning the game, the tournament and their third national title since 2007 and 2008.
“To finally be in the national championship was spectacular,” Kistner said. “Having the NCAA crest on my jersey, having the 1,600 (fans in attendance) and all those kinds of things is what makes it spectacular.”
After the game, the team rented out UNO’s Chicago Grill to celebrate, a favorite spot to go after the game, with family, friends and fans who supported them throughout their season.
With the 2013-2014 season over, six seniors Vakos, Kistner, Allison Era, Chelsea VanGlahn, Sydney Aveson and Jordan Caldwell will be graduating and saying goodbye to competitive hockey.
“As much as it’s sad that everything you worked for is over, we couldn’t have ended on a better note,” Vakos said. “So, I’m OK with walking away knowing my last year we won a national championship.”
Vakos said she plans to work in the criminal justice field as a police officer, while Kistner said she plans to take a year off and then hopes to attend pharmacy school. If pharmacy school doesn’t pan out, she plans to attend graduate school to become a professor.
“To go in the locker room and know that I won’t be there next year with the team is sad, but I’ve dedicated my life, 18 years, to hockey,” Kistner said. “It’s kind of exciting to know that I have opportunities to devote my time to other things.”
As for sophomore Balisy and junior Parke, they said they hope the new recruits for next year’s team will work just as hard as the seniors leaving and help them achieve a fourth national title.
“I think we’ll have a hard working team,” Parke said. “We’re willing to do whatever it takes to win another title.”