Vol. LXI, No. 15
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
(Photo courtesy of the Amherst College Sports Information Department)
It would have been easy for Lindsay Grabowski to get discouraged and just go through the motions in her senior season with the Amherst College women's ice hockey team.
The former Stuart Country Day standout and Princeton native had started every game for Amherst as a freshman in 2003-04. After serving as a back-up in her sophomore and junior seasons, Grabowski was looking forward to seeing a lot of action in her last college campaign.
But early in the season, it became clear that freshman goalie Krystyn Elek was going to be the starter with Grabowski again relegated to a reserve role.
Rather than sulking, Grabowski made the best of the situation, supporting Elek and shining when she did get on the ice. Grabowski's contributions on the ice and in the dressing room helped pave the way for a winter to remember as the Lord Jeffs recovered from a slow start to win the program's first-ever New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) title on the way to its initial Division III Frozen Four appearance.
While acknowledging that it wasn't easy to take a backseat role, Grabowski was a better person for the experience. "You have to learn to swallow your pride and be a part of a team; that is the reason that you play," said Grabowski, who posted a 5-1 mark this season with a 2.41 goals against average as Amherst finished 20-7-3 overall.
"There is self-sacrifice but you realize that the team comes first. It isn't easy to accept a hard decision by a coach but you see it is in the best interests of the team."
Grabowski's special relationship with Elek, a Lawrenceville School alum, was an example of true team chemistry.
"She is a good goalie and she deserved to play," said Grabowski. "She was so supportive of me when I played I couldn't help wanting her to do well. She is a wonderful friend and she helped get me somewhere great."
Early on, it certainly didn't look like Amherst was headed anywhere great after getting off to a 3-4 on the heels of a 10-15 campaign in 2005-06.
"The loss to Williams was a turning point," said Grabowski, referring to Amherst's 5-2 loss to its archrival in December. "We were mentally ready to win after that point."
Still, even Grabowski finds it hard to believe how far Amherst went after its early-season struggles. "I have to say the season was a huge surprise," said Grabowski. "If you had told me in November or December that we would win the NESCAC or be in the Frozen Four, I would have said you were out of your gourd."
In Grabowski's view, Amherst's success can be traced to a special sense of unity. "I think a lot of it is that we became more of a team," said Grabowski. "We were less motivated by individual pride than by getting team goals. When you work together as a team it's fun to see how good you can be. We did have incredible depth; there was no concern when the third or fourth line came on."
Amherst head coach Jim Plumer said that the 5'0 Grabowski taught him some big lessons. "She's an unbelievable competitor and hard worker; she understands the value of team," said Plumer, whose team fell 3-2 to Plattsburgh State in the Division III national semifinals. "You get into coaching and you hope to influence kids but sometimes the kids influence you. Lindsay is someone I learned from, she gets it. Her heart is a lot bigger than her body."
Grabowski's heart won't soon be forgotten by Plumer. "She accepted her role as a back-up; she worked hard and was so enthusiastic," said Plumer, who gave Grabowski the start in Amherst's final game, a national consolation contest against Wisconsin Stevens Point. "She really made a difference. If anyone complains about their role in the future, I can always point to Lindsay as an example of how to handle things. The role she played this year was extraordinary."
Plumer sees an extraordinary future ahead for Grabowski, a multiple choice for Winter NESCAC All-Academic honors.
"If I could buy stock in a kid, I'd buy it in Lindsay," asserted Plumer, noting that Grabowski excelled in an internship she had this past summer with Lehman Brothers in New York City. "She is going to be very successful. She's smart, ambitious, and competitive."
As Grabowski heads into the real world and a position with Lehman in New York, the memory of getting to start Amherst's last game of its magic season made the sacrifice worthwhile.
"I'm so happy I got into the Frozen Four, it's something I'll never forget," said Grabowski, who plans to reverse commute this winter on occasion to come home to watch her younger sister Carly, a star for Princeton's national champion women's squash team.
"It wasn't my best game but it was so wonderful to hear my name called out on the last possible day that a Division III game could be played this season."
And after giving so much of herself mentally and physically to support her team, that was a moment Grabowski richly deserved.
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