Rick Harrison of Pawn Stars said “you never know what’s coming through the door.” The women’s club ice hockey team in Villanova’s ability to pick up women from all areas and skill levels and gel as a team is a strong factor in its success last season and led to many achievements such as qualifying for DVCHC Nationals.
One of those players is Sara Barshap, a junior forward on the team who did not have much experience with stick handling, performing tape-to-tape passes and generating the flow of the attack. In fact, it was a challenge for her just to get on the ice with a cane and a puck, despite her father and family members playing hockey.
“I wanted to play hockey when I was younger, and then my dad was a hockey player, and my mom was a doctor,” Barshap said.
Barshaps’s mother was not so happy about her desire to play hockey because, as a doctor, she was hyper-aware of the risks and saw it as a dangerous sport. But they found a compromise that involved the ice, and it was figure skating that Barshap made competitive until the 8th grade.
When figure skating was over, Barshap began hanging around the Union Sports Arena in Union, New Jersey at the beginning of his first year of high school. She wanted to observe training, watch matches and keep goals for the matches there, but she was not very involved in ice hockey during high school.
Barshap got some help when she came for briefing before her first year at Villanova. Her orienteering advisor was good friends with one of the captains of Villanova’s ice hockey team, which opened a place for Barshap to go to the first training session and find their way to the team.
A big reason for the success of this ever-changing puzzle of new women on the team is the stability of the seniors. The seniors have the most experience, and that helps the other players, who may not have that much experience.
“That [experience] will definitely come through when we run the exercises, ”said Barshap. “I feel like constructive criticism, and any kind of advice is always so appreciated by everyone.”
An example of a player who took on the role of coach in senior management was Sami Pulley, who was at Villanova Law School and played ice hockey for women at Boston University, a Division I program. Pulley wanted to run exercises, give advice based on what she learned during her time at BU and was a role model for the younger players.
The team’s senior management and talent shone through during the season. Villanova finished with an 8-5-1 record for a total of 17 points and a spot in the DVCHC Championship, which is the playoffs to qualify for the Nationals. The team finished top five in its division to qualify for the DVCHC Championship and did well enough to qualify for the Nationals.
This gave the team a trip to St. Louis, but as a club team, there is not a charter flight or a broadcast that other teams get. This team was forced to raise money and some players were still unable to reach it, but the rest of the group leaned on passion to provide the best they could.
“We knew we had to go,” Barshap said. “We knew we were going to represent ‘Nova, and it was really a story about a lot of victims for a lot of people.’
At the Nationals, Villanova faced stiff competition, losing all three games against Boston College, Rowan University and Lake Superior State University. Villlanova lost both of its regular season games to Rowan University, and Lake Superior State University was the top-ranked team in ACHA with a record of 27-3.
The team’s strength was its defense last season. The defense formed the model for how the team sacrificed for each other, but due to lack of funding and planning conflicts, the team carried only two defenders to the Nationals.
“Defensively, we have such an amazing group of girls and they really go out,” Barshap said.
For the success to continue next season, the team must carry on the legacy of the outgoing seniors and use its experience from the Nationals to beat the tougher teams on its schedule.