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Women's ice hockey team members at Women Build Weekend for Habitat for Humanity

Members of the Cornell Big Red women's hockey team helped build a house for Habitat for Humanity in Groton, N.Y. during finals week in May. Photo provided.

Another win -- this time in community service -- for the women's ice hockey team

Every year, the Cornell Cup recognizes varsity teams that thrive in the classroom, excel in competition as well as participate in community service projects, offer support to other Cornell varsity teams, and attend Student Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) and Red Key sponsored events -- which can range from Frisbee tournaments to bench-pressing to raise breast cancer awareness. The winners for the 2011-12 season are members of the women's hockey team, which advanced to the Women's Frozen Four in March.

The Cornell Cup is a competition organized by Red Key, an honor society recognizing Cornell's student-athletes for their leadership and contribution to the Cornell and Ithaca communities. The cup was extremely competitive this year, with so many teams having outstanding seasons and making valiant efforts to reach out to the surrounding community.

"I'm really proud that women's ice hockey could finally bring home the Cornell Cup. ... Some of the programs …we've been involved in since even before I got here. But we've also started some new ones," said Chelsea Karpenko, a senior co-captain of the team. "… with the Ithaca community supporting us so much over the years, it's nice to be able to give back."

Team members had exemplary performance in the classroom this year, earning one of the highest team GPAs in the 2011 fall semester. The team also went on to have an outstanding season, making its third consecutive trip to the Frozen Four as well as winning Ivy League championship and regular-season ECAC Hockey titles for the third year in a row. After the season, four members of the team, representing Team Canada, also went on to win gold at the 2012 World Championship: forwards Rebecca Johnston '12 and Brianne Jenner '14, and defensemen Lauriane Rougeau '13 and Laura Fortino '13.

In between classes and competitions, team members found time for such community involvement as the team's Cub Club program. At the beginning of the season, the players are paired with "little sisters" -- young hockey players from the Tompkins County Girls Hockey Association -- in a ceremony at Lynah Rink. Throughout the rest of year, the Big Red athletes get to know their little sisters by hosting pizza parties, bowling outings and movie nights. The little sisters are strong supporters of the Big Red athletes and have been known to make quite a cheering section at the women's games.

"The relationships that we develop with the Cub Club girls are not only valuable for them but valuable for us," senior goaltender Amanda Mazzotta said. "They gain a role model, but we also gain the experience of being a role model. It teaches you how important it is to give back to the community when you can see how much of an impact you can have on them."

In the fall, the entire team volunteered to pack lunches for Feed My Starving Children and collected donations for Cops, Kids and Toys. During the holiday season, the team came together to purchase gifts and holiday meals to donate to the Salvation Army's Adopt-a-Family program. The team also raised funds before the annual Red/White game, when the Big Red men's and women's ice hockey teams split up into two squads and compete against each other.

During the season, the team also designated several games to support different causes, including mental health awareness and the United Way. Even with the season over and the university in the midst of finals, members of the team came together to help build a house for Habitat for Humanity in nearby Groton, N.Y.

Then, in what little free time these student-athletes had left, they supported other Cornell teams and athletic organizations. The entire team attended the Student-Athlete Advisory Council's Win a Date with the Big Red fundraiser, and players formed cheering sections to support men's ice hockey, women's volleyball, field hockey, football, men's and women's lacrosse, gymnastics and many other teams throughout the year.

"We have a team of big sport lovers, and we get a lot of support from other teams on campus," Mazzotta said. "So when you see your friends and fellow athletes in the crowd, it really makes you want to go and support their teams as well."

Olivia Boyd '12 is an intern with Cornell Athletic Communications.

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