Wisconsin-River Falls senior Carly Moran admits that last season’s NCAA opening round loss to Gustavus Adolphus is still a sore subject for her — something she doesn’t really want to talk about.Even as she said that, however, she was looking for positive ways to spin the upset. After trips to the Frozen Four her freshman and sophomore seasons, Moran knows she was a bit spoiled. With the national player of the year in Dani Sibley and Moran’s own offensive prowess and their recent success, maybe the Falcons got ahead of themselves.Whatever the reason, Moran’s determined that won’t be the case this season.”Every year is different. Obviously in the past we’ve had a lot of success. That expectation is always there,” she said. “It’s important that we deal with that kind of adversity and failure and know that we can bounce back from it. … (The loss) is a contributor to our attitude now and our work ethic. Just a reminder that nothing is going to come easy. Every year is a new year. You have to start clean and try not to let that pressure and expectation rule your attitude.”Wis.-River Falls is a young team this season — 14 of the 21 players are underclassmen. Moran leads the team with 22 goals and 17 assists. Much of the year she’s played on a line with Callie Hoff, a freshman who has quickly made a place for herself with the Falcons.She’s 12th in the country among all scorers with 18 goals and 14 assists. Not only does she lead all rookies in scoring, she’s eight points clear of the nearest freshman. She’s eighth in the country in goals scored. There are only two other freshmen that even crack the top 40.Hoff tore her a knee ligament her senior year in high school, meaning not only did she have to master the transition from prep to college, she did so while also recovering from an injury. She knew the college game would be faster, but said that even knowing that, she was still surprised by how fast it was. She spent her off season working with a skating coach to make sure she was as fit to skate at this level as she could be.A soft-spoken freshman, Hoff said she’s not focused on points, but on how she can help her team — in any way necessary.Despite some early bumps in the road, Hoff and Moran say they’re focused on how much their squad has improved over the course of the season.”I think the biggest thing for us is just we’ve grown a lot since the beginning of the season,” said Moran. “The team we are now is a much better team, and we’re continuing to grow. Hopefully, we’ll carry that growth in the playoffs.”Knowing where they are now, as a team, Hoff said she wishes they could go back and play Adrian (the team they lost to on their second weekend) again as the squad they are now. For Moran, it’s about not dwelling on what can’t be changed and instead focusing on what she is able to.”Some of those tough losses early on really encouraged us to work that much harder, and it’s shown here later in the season,” she said. “My thing is, I try not to control things that can’t be controlled. I really focus on my work ethic and my attitude. I know that if I show up every day and I work my hardest and I have a positive attitude, then that’s me filling my role as a senior captain. I don’t really focus on wins or points or anything. I just kind of trust that those things will fall into place if I show up every day and work my hardest.”Regardless of the record or the stat sheet, Moran believes the Falcons are in a good position as they play two final regular season games against Wisconsin-Eau Claire, the team that sits four points behind them in WIAC standings.She’s focused on making sure the team doesn’t get too far ahead of themselves. She doesn’t outright say it, but the “like we might have done last season” feels like the logical conclusion to that statement.It’s been necessary for Moran to step into a bigger leadership role on this young team this season. She’s mentoring players like Hoff and helping to guide a team whose young players had a very different experience in their first season or two than she did. She’s also trying to make the most of her own senior season, and maybe earn a bit of redemption from last season.”(We’re focused on) having fun with each other and not forgetting why we play hockey, (not letting) those pressures take the fun out of it,” she said. “The biggest thing for me is I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself. I just want to enjoy the experience and enjoy playing the sport that I love with all my best friends.”
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