Thriving On Ice And Turf
By Michael Lowther
Special to GoHolyCross.com
Marcia LaPlante entered campus as a bright-eyed freshman, unsure of what her future may hold. College can be full of numerous uncertainties for an entering student, but LaPlante knew that in a few weeks she would be strapping on her goalie pads and standing between the pipes for the Holy Cross women’s ice hockey team. What she didn’t know is that she would be strapping on different pads, standing in a different net and walking instead of skating.
STARTING OUT ON THE ICE
LaPlante grew up in Waasis, New Brunswick, where she immediately fell in love with ice hockey. Her passion for the game empowered her drive to set goals for her promising career, and she wanted to play ice hockey at the collegiate level. LaPlante mainly focused on ice hockey throughout her youth but was introduced to a new sport once she started high school. “We had a field hockey team in high school, but it wasn’t very popular in my area, and the level of play is low because people don’t hear about it until high school,” explained LaPlante. “There isn’t a whole lot of room for development in New Brunswick.”
LaPlante viewed field hockey as more of a hobby; it was her goal of playing collegiate ice hockey that encouraged her to transfer and attend St. Mark’s prep school in Southborough, Mass. “I wanted to play ice hockey in the United States,” said LaPlante. “There are not as many opportunities in Canada, and when I was back home there weren’t any scholarships for girls to play women’s ice hockey. I wanted to see if I could come here and play because even if that didn’t work out, I could have just gone back to Canada and played hockey there.”
INTRODUCTION TO THE FIELD CULTURE
While attending St. Mark’s, LaPlante was exposed to a more serious culture of field hockey in the United States. She took a liking to the sport but was unable to make the varsity team in her sophomore year as a goaltender. As a junior, LaPlante was again unsuccessful in making the varsity team in net. She made the decision to switch to a field player, where she started at left back. While on the team, LaPlante earned the team award of “Most Improved Player” and helped her team win a New England Championship. That same year LaPlante also excelled on the ice, holding a 1.37 goals against average with eight shutouts and was named All-Independent School League in 2016. Her love for ice hockey combined with her successes at the prep school level led to her recruitment and eventual commitment to play ice hockey at Holy Cross.
AN EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY
Fast forwarding to the last week in August, 2016, LaPlante stepped onto campus and began the traditional acclimation process associated with becoming a college student. The fall sports teams had already been on campus for a few weeks with their regular seasons underway. At the time, the field hockey team only had one goalie, leading head coach Lindsay Jackson to search for an extra goalie—a backup plan of sorts. “Coach Jackson sent out an email to anyone with prior field hockey goalie experience and wanted to find a practice goalie for the team, so I emailed her back and said I had experience,” said LaPlante.
Coach Jackson then set up a tryout for LaPlante, where Jackson fired a barrage of shots on her, carefully gauging her talent in net. Jackson then invited LaPlante up to the field later in the day to play with the team. However, to Laplante’s surprise, coach Jackson introduced her to the team as their newest teammate. A few practices and two games later, LaPlante was the starting goaltender for the Holy Cross field hockey team.
AIDING THE TEAM
The addition of LaPlante seemed to be exactly the boost the field hockey team needed. “Two weeks into the season I felt like I had been part of the team the whole time,” said LaPlante. “The culture of our team was very proactive. Everyone wanted the best for each other, and the team was really close. When you work hard with your teammates and go through conditioning with them, you form a certain bond, especially with the highs and lows throughout the season. As we realized we could make the Patriot League Tournament we all had a common goal, and when you have a common goal, it is really easy to mesh together.”
As Jackson explains, LaPlante became an integral part of the program in no time. "Having Marcia join the team this season was a strong factor in our overall success," said Jackson. "We have a very strong defensive unit lead by Kathryn Nutting and Rae Caliento, and for Marcia to come in and immediately mesh with our group of defenders, it shows how much of an athlete and competitor she is! Coming in as a freshman into a goalkeeper position is tough enough, let alone coming in about three weeks after we had already started. Marcia hopped in and quickly gained respect and created great relationships with her teammates."
The field hockey team carried through with an improving season, posting a 9-10 overall record and going 3-3 in the Patriot League. Most notably, the team made the Patriot League Tournament for the first time in 10 years. Junior forward Maureen Connolly explained LaPlante’s contribution. “She had a huge part in our success this year. She kept us in a lot of close games that we might have lost otherwise if she hadn’t been there, so we were very thankful that she was able to contribute in such a positive way.”
NATIONAL RECOGNITION & HONORS
LaPlante didn’t just keep the Crusaders in close games, she was above and beyond the competition for the duration of the season. At the conclusion of the season, LaPlante received national recognition, posting a .817 save percentage, ranking first in the nation amongst Division I goaltenders.
In addition to her national recognition, she was also honored by the Patriot League for multiple accolades. LaPlante was named Patriot League Goalkeeper of the Year, Patriot League Rookie of the Year and first team All-Patriot League, a quite impressive feat for a freshman who never spent a minute as a field hockey goaltender at the varsity level in high school. “It feels great because I worked really hard. The rewards are a reflection of the whole team in general, and I don’t do things alone,” explained LaPlante. “We have a really strong defense.” The future looks bright for the field hockey program, and LaPlante is sure to play a big role.
Playing on the field hockey team has unexpectedly given LaPlante the confidence and leadership skills valued at the Division I level. Playing the same position in two separate sports can unravel some difficulties in switching playing styles. However, the experience on the field hockey team has only helped LaPlante. “I think the transition will be fine because I have experience in switching sports,” explained LaPlante. “During the field hockey season I was still practicing with the ice hockey team, so I was doing both for 2-3 weeks. I think being on the field hockey team has made me more confident for ice hockey. I became more vocal and willing to communicate during a game.”
It also helps that LaPlante plays goalie on the field the one way she learned how to play goalie on the ice. “I don’t play like a field hockey goalie—instead, I play field hockey like an ice hockey goalie,” described LaPlante. “I’m very mobile, and I use my ice hockey butterfly technique.” Regardless of the lack in experience and proper form, LaPlante has one main goal: to not let any up.
RETURNING TO THE ICE
LaPlante has started to carry her momentum of success onto the ice. Similar to her fall sport, she started playing with the women’s ice hockey team mid-season, due to the cross over from field hockey. Again, she is quickly emerging as a major asset to the team.
LaPlante has won both games she’s started in this season, holding a .978 save percentage with a 0.50 goals against average. She earned her first shutout victory in her second start against No. 8 Connecticut College on Dec. 6, in the Crusaders’ 2-0 home victory. The Crusaders stand 10-2-0 overall this season with a 5-1-0 conference mark.
The women’s ice hockey team will return to action after break on Jan. 7-8 for the Rutland Herald Invitational hosted by NEHC foe, Castleton.