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Women's Ice Hockey Gains Varsity Status

By Susan Buchman

This winter marks the inaugural season of the MIT women's varsity ice hockey team.

The team has existed for almost twenty years, first as an informal organization and, later as a club sport. This year, the Department of Athletics elevated the team to varsity status.

"Women's ice hockey has been at MIT since 1980," according to head coach Katia Paskevitch. In its infancy, the team was a collection of undergraduate and graduate students, alumni, and friends.

Eventually, the Department of Athletics gave the team equipment and granted it club status, Paskevitch said. However, even before that point the team was holding regular practices.

"It's amazing the interest women at MITwere showing towards hockey," said Paskevitch "The team has always been very serious."

"We have always treated the team like a varsity team," said team captain Kalpana Mani '99. "We practice regularly, five days a week, and attendance is mandatory at practice."

When Paskevitch became involved with the program three years ago, both she and the athletics department had the intention of making the team varsity. The composition of the team, which was primarily graduate students, was the last big hurdle facing the team because the NCAA requires that a varsity team have only undergraduate members.

"The actual move to become varsity began last February," Mani said. "Because of restructuring in the department, our funding for the 19981999 season was going to be cut."

"This would have been devastating for the team," she said. "Many of our competitors were going varsity; we would be cutting back."

The ice hockey team decided that becoming a varsity team was the best way to avoid collapse.

"We started by writing an official letter to the department requesting that they confer varsity status on the team," said Mani.

In May 1998, the athletics department informed the team that it was considering the team's request and would meet with the team at the end of June.

"In the interim, we did a lot of research about the budgets of varsity teams," Mani said. "At the meeting, we presented our case to go varsity, and they told us that the department had requested a varsity budget for the 19981999 season from the senior administration."

On Sept. 10, Paskevitch informed the team that its request had been approved.

Although Paskevitch had to take the team from "eighty percent graduate students to a team of undergraduates," finding women interested in playing hockey was not a problem.

"I have twenty [women] trying out every year," said Paskevitch. The team has 17 returning members.

Now that the team has earned varsity status, it is looking forward to being accepted into the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference.

"This year we are varsity in the eyes of the department, but we have not yet joined the Division IIIleague," Mani said.

The team will have to submit and application which will be decided upon by the ECAC at a meeting next year.

The hockey team was 771 last year. It will continue to play the same teams that they played as a club team.

"The biggest difference [between club and varsity status] is the support we'll receive from the department," said Mani. "We will get buses to our away games, whereas before we had to rent vans. We will have trainers at practices and games, we will be issued equipment from the athletic department for the season, and we will get physical education credit."