A top recruit for the University of North Dakota’s women’s hockey team learned the school was axing the program during her recruiting visit.
Lauren Hennessey flew from Massachusetts to North Dakota on Wednesday morning for a campus tour, only to be informed of the school’s decision — part of a schoolwide $1.3 million budget-trimming directive — during a meeting with the coaching staff.
UND athletic director Brian Faison made the announcement official during a news conference shortly after. The school also announced it would cut its men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams due to an anticipated drop in state funding.
For Hennessey, who had already had made a verbal commitment to be the program’s next goalie, the announcement put her dream of playing D-I hockey in jeopardy.
“My parents and I were in complete shock. It all took a while to sink in before we realized what was truly happening,” Hennessey told the Grand Forks Herald. “I rejected a lot of Division I offers to come to UND.”
The Fighting Hawks women’s hockey program, which began in 2002, reached the NCAA quarterfinals for two straight years when twin sisters and U.S. Olympians Monique and Jocelyne Lamoureux played for the team. Eight UND players represented three countries in the 2014 Olympics.
“We’ve had records every year in fundraising, we’ve had records in ticket sales, we’ve had records in sponsorships, but we still can’t get there,” Faison said.
Hennessey says she remains hopeful the program can somehow be salvaged.
“I’ve followed this team since I was a little girl,” she said. “I am hoping that the support and love for hockey in this town will help save the program.”