By ASHLEIGH LIVINGSTON
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Jackie Vogl and her family have attended women’s hockey games at SUNY Plattsburgh since the inception of the college’s team more than 10 years ago.
Cheering on the Cardinals at Ronald B. Stafford Ice Arena began as a no-cost way for Jackie; her husband, Steve; and their three young sons to spend Saturday afternoons or evenings together.
Since then, Jackie said, “I’ve become a rather rabid fan.”
In fact, when the team beat St. Norbert College last Saturday for a spot in the NCAA Division III semifinals in Superior, Wis., Jackie’s first question was, “How long does it take to drive to Superior, Wisconsin?”
Ultimately, she concluded that the 20-plus-hour trek was out of the question. However, Jackie and her family will undoubtedly be at today’s game against Middlebury College in spirit.
RETURN TO FINALS
The match will mark the Cardinals’ ninth appearance in the NCAA Tournament and seventh in the final four, according to SUNY Plattsburgh Sports Information Director Stephanie Dutton.
The team won the tournament, becoming national champions, in 2007 and 2008 and finished third in last year’s event.
“To get back to the final four is what this team wanted,” Dutton said. “This is what the girls have been working for since September.”
‘SO MUCH HEART’
Having been a fan for so long, Jackie has followed the team through national competition before; however, she said, she especially feels a great sense of pride this year.
“The team is very young, so it’s quite an accomplishment,” she said. “They’ve just got so much heart.”
Jackie has also watched support for the women’s team grow over the years; though, she noted, it still doesn’t rival that of the SUNY Plattsburgh men’s hockey team.
Men’s collegiate sports, as a whole, tend to get more attention, said SUNY Plattsburgh Athletic Director Bruce Delventhal, adding, “people just tend to like them more.”
However, he said, the Cardinal women do have what he called a very good following at the college, and over the last eight years, have been in the top 10 for attendance nationally among both Division I and Division III women’s hockey teams.
“It’s a good feeling and a good atmosphere at our women’s games,” Delventhal said.
Former Cardinal Carly Lemieux said that when she played for the team in 2001, the devotion of their fans was evident.
And though the men’s team got more attention at SUNY Plattsburgh then and now, Lemieux said, she and her teammates formed personal relationships with their fans, many of whom would show their support even at away games.
“The core of fans that we had back when I played was unbelievable,” she said.
ROOTING FOR VICTORY
Following SUNY Plattsburgh’s women’s team, Jackie added, is what fostered an appreciation for hockey in her and her sons, who, for a long time, had never seen men play the sport.
“My boys, for a while, thought that only girls played hockey,” she said.
Now ages 11, 13 and 15, Jackie’s sons still attend women’s hockey games at SUNY Plattsburgh with their parents; though, out of her entire family, Jackie noted, “I’m probably the most devout fan.”
Lemieux also continues to follow the team and has great faith in the abilities of its members, as well as head coach Kevin Houle.
“Coach Houle is unbelievable,” she said. “He’s a wonderful man.
“I’m excited to see them do as wonderful as I know they can.”
Email Ashleigh Livingston:email@example.com
Veteran Press-Republican Sports Writer Courtney Lewis is in Superior, Wis., to cover the Plattsburgh State women's hockey team as they compete in the NCAA Division II Tournament. Follow her on Twitter starting at 4:30 p.m. @SportsCourt. And look for coverage at www.pressrepublican.com and in the print edition.