BY RICKY ST. CLAIR
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Giovanna Senese isn’t the biggest in stature.
Standing at 4-foot-11, she’s the smallest player listed on the Plattsburgh State women’s hockey roster.
Size, however, didn’t stop Senese from helping her Chicago Mission Tier 1 AAA hockey team capture a silver medal in last year’s USA Hockey Tier 1 National Championships in Irving, Texas.
After doing so, the Huntley, Ill., quickly became interested in Plattsburgh and enrolled as a double major in mathematics and physics.
This week, she guides a Cardinals team to the Division III Women’s Ice Hockey Championships in Superior, Wis.
Plattsburgh is 26-0-2 and makes its seventh final four appearance in program history, while trying for its third national championship.
“I try and play bigger than my size,” Senese said. “That’s what I’ve always been told. ‘Have fun and just go out there and play my game … do what I need to and use my teammates to help me play bigger.”
Senese headlines an electrifying third line, which also features Ali Vakos and Chelsea VanGlahn.
The three forwards combined for 46 points this season and have received praise from coach Kevin Houle throughout the course of the year.
“That line has given us a spark as of late,” Houle said. “They give us high-energy shifts and are comfortable playing with one another.”
Senese has also logged a significant amount of time on the penalty kill this season — a role that she’s comfortable with.
The Cardinals rank fourth in Division III women’s college hockey in penalty-kill percentage at 90.1 percent, surrendering just nine goals on 91 shorthanded tries.
“Yeah, I’ve played that a lot for a while now,” Senese said. “It’s always good and whoever I play with doesn’t matter. Everything I contribute is helpful to the team. That’s all I need.”
The freshman, who registered goals against Oswego Jan. 12 and Cortland Jan. 26, said her first year of playing college hockey has been fun and to cap it off with a national championship this weekend would be remarkable.
“It would be a good start to my college career,” Senese said. “They went there last year, so it would be nice to keep progressing with the team. It’s been a long road and hopefully it keeps going this weekend.”
Before becoming a full-time student at Plattsburgh, Senese made multiple recruiting visits to the four-year, public liberal arts college and immediately felt at home.
“I liked the campus and how they described classes were going to be … how the team interacted with each other when I came here,” Senese said. “When I was with the team, it felt so at home. It felt so forthcoming and welcoming. Everything just felt like home when I first got here, and it was always good.”
Senese said the team shares a special bond, and they hope to record a weekend sweep at Wessman Arena on the campus of Wisconsin-Superior.
“We’re doing everything we can, and we want this really badly,” Senese said. “We’ve worked hard obviously; we’re undefeated. We’ve come too close to fall short.”