Women’s D-III: Morrisville finds success early as a program

Melissa Lomanto behind the bench with the Morrisville Mustangs (Morrisville Athletics)
Melissa Lomanto behind the bench with the Morrisville Mustangs (Morrisville Athletics)

Morrisville State is now competing in its fourth season as a program, and one could say this program has found success early. In their third season as a program, the Mustangs earned an NCAA tournament bid by winning the Colonial Hockey Conference playoff tournament. However, coach Melissa Lomanto is no stranger to the national tournament. In 2011, she led the Adrian Bulldogs to their first NCAA appearance. She is the only woman to coach two separate programs in the national tournament.

Lomanto contributes most of her success to the hard-working athletes that have played for her.

“Both NCAA appearances came from conference championship teams. I have been fortunate enough to be at two institutions that have supported the growth and success of women’s hockey. It has been a very exciting process for myself, as well as for the players. I attribute all of the successes I have had as a coach to their work and belief in our programs. Every day is a fun day, and we learn from each other.”

When asked what helped Morrisville find success so early, Lomanto said the foundation that was laid down by the first group of girls was like no other.

“One of the unique things about our program is that everyone has played an important role. Our first senior class is graduating in May and has set up the foundation for the program with character, leadership, and work ethic while believing in the start of the program at Morrisville. This has made it welcoming to underclassman and easy for them to transition into NCAA hockey.”

Another unique aspect about Morrisville is their diverse roster. Several members of the team are international players from countries like Canada, Germany, and Norway. Lomanto said the diverse roster has helped the team grow on and off the ice.

“One of the unique things about the diverse roster is that it has helped us become well rounded, both on and off the ice. Everyone has learned something new about the culture of one of their teammates, while some have had the opportunity to travel and visit abroad. This has helped players get to know each other and transition that camaraderie onto the ice.”

Morrisville is a part of the Colonial Hockey Conference that was established in 2015. As the teams that encompass this conference continue to grow, Lomanto agrees that the conference is getting stronger. As the conference grows, Lomanto acknowledges that it will better her team for the playoffs.

“The teams in the CHC have all become more competitive; this is exciting for the league, as well as for the growth of women’s hockey. This has benefited Morrisville, as our goal is again to make it to the NCAA tourney, and playing higher-caliber teams helps prepare you to compete at that level.”

Morrisville had the opportunity to play Plattsburgh this year, and although the outcome was not what the Mustangs would have liked to see, Lomanto can see the benefits for her team beyond the scoreboard.

“This was a great opportunity to play a top team in the country. It showed some of our strengths, as well as weaknesses that we can continue to improve on for the rest of the season.”

Jessica Ujcik has been a key player for Morrisville the last few years. The German native is currently in her junior year and has 49 career points, though Lomanto mentions it is not just her scoring ability that makes her valuable to the team.

“Ujcik has played forward for us for the last two years. She is a valuable player and can play any position we have asked her to.”

As Morrisville looks for its second trip to the national tournament, they will need to close out regular season play strongly. The Mustangs currently sit third in the conference standings, but have played two games less than conference leader, Nichols. Morrisville could win the CHC regular season title if they can win their remaining four games.

The tight race in the Colonial Hockey Conference should provide for some extremely exciting hockey games to close out the regular season.