March 20, 2014

Gettysburg's Seniors Looking to Repeat '11 Title Run

Senior Kelsey Markiewicz has 10 goals and one assist for unbeaten Gettysburg this season. (David Sinclair)

by Mark Macyk | | Twitter

There will be two NCAA championship trophies present at Gettysburg College on May 25.

One will be on the field and will be handed over to the new Division III champions. The other will stay in its glass display case in the athletics’ lobby. It’s the one Gettysburg won in 2011. It isn’t going anywhere. 

Six current Bullets played on that championship team, which isn’t all that weird. Every four years championship freshmen become seniors. It’s the circle of life and it’s something Salisbury’s seniors used as motivation during last year's title run.

But Gettysburg’s three captains -- Katie Blumenthal, Kelsey Markiewicz and Loren Pruitt -- combined for 11 points in that championship game as freshmen. Blumenthal scored the final goal. The Bullets were a young team that rebuilt on the fly and won a title before anyone expected them to.

And now, as seniors, the trio, which has combined for over 500 career points, have the Bullets primed for for another run in a new role: as senior leaders.

“The six seniors all remember what it was like to be on that team,” said Pruitt, who is tied for eighth on the program’s all-time scoring list. “It’s so difficult to describe the feeling. We just try to emphasize that the little things, the extra sprints, do pay off in the long run.”

Basically, it's the captains' jobs to keep the younger players motivated and focused. To let them know there’s a reason behind the extra workouts. To remind them of the team’s theme, which is to “get after it.” To stay at the dining center until it closes every night, because that’s where the team lives after practice. 

But before they did any of that,  the captains sat down and tried to figure out what previous captains had done to prepare them. It took some time.

“‘Okay what was it that they did? Did they know what they were doing?’ We tried to mimic the leadership,” Blumenthal said. “We weren’t able to pinpoint it but we were eventually able to identify the different things we liked about what they did.”

It’s not surprising that they didn’t notice the guiding hand of seniors when they were freshmen. At the time, many of the young Bullets didn’t even realize just how special that title was. Gettysburg had never taken home an NCAA championship in any other sport.

“Our coach [Carol Cantele] did a fantastic job masking the story,” said Markiewicz, who is second all-time on Gettysburg’s game-winning goals list and ranks in the program’s Top 20 in goals, assists, points and draw controls. “I guess being a naive freshman I just assumed that Gettysburg was such a traditionally strong program that they must have had one in the last 20 years or so. So it actually was very surprising the history that we made that day.”

History they can make again on their home field this fall. It’s something they talk about, sort of. When Cantele brings up “the elephant in the room,” the Bullets know what she means.

“It’s something you have to identify,” said Blumenthal, who has 73 career goals and 41 assists. “Addressing it as the elephant, you’re not making a joke of it, but you’re making sure it’s something we’re talking about without saying it out loud.”

Everything is working so far. The younger players are stepping up and the Bullets have shot out to a 4-0 start. They avenged last year’s NCAA tournament loss to RPI with a 14-9 victory in Florida last week. Sophomore Abby Baigelman put a career-high eight points in that one. Three days later, sophomore Maggie Connelly delivered the game winner in overtime as the Bullets clipped Ithaca, 13-12, in Florida. 

They’ll host TCNJ on Thursday then return home to face a red hot Haverford team on Saturday. They’ll walk past the trophy on their way out.

“It’s a pretty good feeling,” Blumenthal said. “It’s a constant reminder that hard work doesn’t go to waste. We really pride ourselves on that. We’re up early and we’re lifting and we'll see it and it’s a nice little reminder that hard work does pay off.” 

The 2011 semifinal victory over Cortland ended late and the Bullets did not get back to their hotel room until after midnight. Then it was up early to play Bowdoin for the title game. They barely had energy to celebrate the victory.

“It’s all kind of a blur because we were so exhausted,” Pruitt said. 

They got on the bus and made the five-hour trip from Adelphi back to campus, where they found close to 100 people waiting for them. 

The trip would be shorter this time around. The trophy would only need to travel a few hundred feet. The celebration would be just as huge.

Said Markiewicz: “It would be incredible to bring it full circle and do it again senior year on the same turf we play on every day.

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