The Best Sports Team At Dartmouth

by Sammy Kardon | 11/9/01 6:00am

In general, women's teams at Dartmouth tend to be better than their male counterparts -- but that's debatable. One thing that isn't debatable is that the women's ice hockey team is currently the best varsity program at this school. Period.

The Big Green women are coming off two straight trips to the AWCHA Frozen Four in which they finished third and fourth in the country, respectively. They are also coming off a season in which they were ranked No. 1 in the national poll all year, went 26-5-1 (a school record for victories), won the Ivies, won the ECAC regular season and postseason crowns and proved, once and for all, that this is one of the premier programs in the country.

This is not a recent rise to dominance either. Dartmouth, a 25-year old program, has not finished below .500 in 20 years, won fewer than 14 games in 11 years or failed to compete in the ECAC tournament in ten. In the last eight seasons, the team has amassed a 149-75-17 record. The Big Green starts this year minus six seniors and 1st-team all-Ivy defenseman Correne Bredin '02 (who is still in the midst of trying out for the 2002 Canadian Olympic Team and will be back next year), but are still picked No. 2 in the pre-season poll. There is no reason to expect anything less than at least 20 wins and another run at the national title.

"We have the group to do a lot of damage this year," said coach Judy Oberting '91, one of the best players in Dartmouth history. "I think that in any game we can be competitive. But it's just really hard to say with such an unpredictable group because we are young."

The team is young, but Oberting is being modest. The three leading scorers, senior co-captains Kristin King and Kim McCullough and top scorer Carly Haggard '03, are all back and complemented by six incoming freshmen with impeccable pedigrees, two of whom (forwards Meagan Walton and Cheryl Muranko) played for Canada's under-22 National Team.

Those two will help step in to fill the void left by the departure of the first line, seniors Kristina Guarino, Jen Wiehn and Laren Trottier, who accounted for 35 goals and 41 assists. Nevertheless, the strength of this team should be its forwards.

"We're missing the depth that we had last year, and we're still trying to figure that out," Oberting said.

Still, building around the core of veterans with talented freshman and sophomores and juniors with expanded roles should lead to a potent attack once the lines settle in. King, McCullough and Haggard will be complemented by returning Ivy Rookie of the Year Sarah Clark '04 and seasoned juniors like Amy Catlin and Lydia Wheatley. Four freshmen will also see time on the front line.

"We'll just probably be a little more basic than lest year," Oberting added, "not boring, just more basic."

That is partly because the squad will be missing the electric Bredin and her team-leading 20 assists. Her absence will be felt, but it is hard to begrudge her for heeding the call of her native land.

This year's defensive corps will focus much more on defense and leave the offense to the forwards. The loss of Bredin and two starting '01s, Liz Macri and Carrie Sekela, will hurt, but Oberting has nothing but praise for the returning vets: "Louise Pietrangelo '04 is one of the best D's in the league. Kristin Romberg '01, who was redshirted last year, is back, which will help. Melissa Dolan '02 is a solid presence for us."

Still, there are a lot more questions on D considering three of last year's top four are gone. Two rookies, Alana BreMiller and Alex Zagaria, will have the opportunity to work themselves in, but it may take time.

Fortunately, the goalie position is in good hands. First-team all Ivy keeper Meaghan Cahill has graduated, but Amy Ferguson '03 had been sharing the starting reigns since her freshman year. Coach Oberting often alternated keepers, and it's easy to see how Ferguson could have been the starter all last year.

There is still a long way to go, though, and this team has yet to sift out and forge an identity. It is clear that they will be good, but how good?

"We're not going to get there the same way we did last year," Oberting said. "It was instantaneous last fall, and I just think we have a lot more work to do this year. Hopefully, we'll be a competitive team at the end, but it's going to have to take a different route."