There’s a noticeable difference in the mentality of the Union College women’s team.
There are smiles on the faces of the players. There’s a renewed energy. And the team is looking forward to the season.
A coaching change certainly helps.
It’s a new era and a new attitude for the Dutchwomen. Gone is Claudia Asano Barcomb, who stepped down last spring after posting a 36-236-32 record, a .171 winning percentage, in nine years, and oversaw the team’s current NCAA hockey-record 51-game winless streak.
In is Josh Sciba, who came to Union from Colgate, where he was an assistant coach and played a major role in helping the Raiders produce their best-ever record in program history.
As the Dutchwomen open the regular season tonight against UConn at 6 at Messa Rink, Sciba has the task of trying to turn around the team’s fortunes. He has the task of trying to make coming to the rink and playing hockey fun again.
“So far, so good. It’s been awesome,” Sciba said. “Their energy and their passion, their commitment to what we’re doing has been awesome. I’ve had no objections about what we’ve been doing in terms of their passion and their energy. It’s been awesome so far.
“With anytime there’s a new coaching change, I’m sure there’s going to be a new attitude or a fresh approach to everything. But for them, I think it’s been just very passionate, very energetic. Every time they come to the rink, they’re ready to practice, ready to learn. They have the growth mindset right now, which is all I can care about.”
It didn’t take long for the team to follow Sciba’s leadership.
“There’s a new attitude every year, so with 11 new freshmen . . . in the locker room, and I guess 15 new faces with four new coaches, it definitely brings a new positivity to the team,” senior forward and team captain Alli Devins said. “I know all the upperclassmen have been so positive this year. It’s just us, as a whole, have been looking forward to this season. Everyone is ready to get it going.”
The first time senior defenseman Kathryn Davis stepped on campus earlier this month, she noticed the difference right away.
“It is extremely night and day,” Davis said. “It’s just a totally different atmosphere on the ice, in the locker room, off the ice away from the rink. It’s just a totally different team in every different way.”
The Dutchwomen will have a small roster from which Sciba has to work with There are just 19 players, two less than last year.
Union lost 13 players from last year’s team, but only five were seniors. The Dutchwomen had eight underclassmen leave the program, including goalie Melissa Black, the team’s most valuable player. Black, who had a 2.74 goals-against average and made 1,111 saves, transferred to Vermont. Black will return to Messa on Tuesday when Vermont takes on Union.
It will be important for Sciba to have his team stay healthy, and getting them to jell.
“To me, I look at it as a positive,” Sciba said. “I think they’re going to come together as a group. We’ve already come together as a family. With having low numbers, it’s going to force them to be ready for every game. . . . If we can stay conditioned, if we can stay healthy, we’re going to be a really close-knit, tight group.”
Devins believes the team will be able to handle the small roster.
“It makes us all work hard at practice,” Devins said. “We’re definitely getting a good workout in every drill we do, which is great. It makes it so that you can rely on anyone next to you. Everyone is pushing themselves to be better than the person next to them, but we’re working together as a team to push each other along and make sure that everyone is doing whatever they can to be better.”
And then there’s that winless streak to snap. Union, which went 0-28-6 last season, hasn’t won since beating Maine 2-0 on Dec. 12, 2014. In the 657 days since, they have gone 0-39-12.
Sciba isn’t concerned with the winless streak.
“To me, we really don’t talk about it,” Sciba said. “It’s just about us getting better. [The end of the streak] is going to happen sooner or later. We just want to get better every single day. If we can come in and, hopefully, figure out our process that works for us on a weekly basis, it’s eventually going to happen for us.”
Devins wants the skid over with as soon as possible.
“We want it [tonight],” Devins said. “[Tonight] is our goal.”