Freshman to Senior: The Blink of an Eye

Showing up on the SUNY Oswego campus 4 years ago, having traveled over 700 miles away for a great education and the game I loved so much, I never knew what to expect or how fast it was going to come and go.

I remember showing up to freshman orientation and sitting in a circle of strangers as they introduced themselves; name, major, where they were from, in no particular order. As people made their way around the circle, it was finally my turn. I stated “I am Erika Truschke, Marketing major, and I’m from Chicago, Illinois.” I remember people looking up from their blank stare at the grass or off in the distance to make eye contact with me. I received the “Why are you coming out here to go to school?” The answer was simple to me, but confusing for others; I was here to pursue my collegiate hockey career and get a great education as well.

When I arrived on campus, I was overjoyed with excitement as I moved into my dorm and my stall where I was able to call home for the next four years. In a welcome meeting, Coach Dillon had addressed the team. “Your four years here will go by in a blink of an eye, so enjoy it.” Well that sure did happen. Many people can be invested in something that consumes their life in one way or another, and that is what hockey did for me.

As time flew by here at Oswego, I made countless memories, life-long friends, endured hardships and happiness; needless to say, all of the above where made both on and off the ice. Whether it was in the dorm rooms, in the locker room, or on the road, my teammates where the ones that made this time at Oswego so memorable. Nothing will ever be able to replace what Oswego has given me.

Fast forward to Senior Year…

Freshman Eryn Stewart giving Senior Erika Truschke a hug after suffering season-ending loss to Utica.

Freshman Eryn Stewart giving Senior Erika Truschke a hug after suffering season-ending loss to Utica.

As the team traveled to Utica Thursday February 23, it felt like a routine trip. I sat in the same seat in the very back of the bus, counted off by numbers, departed from the Campus Center Arena to Utica we went. Trying to focus on the game and the task at hand, nerves set in the body for sure. Doing the best to keep my routine, I prepared mentally for the game. Our usual game of ‘attempting to keep up the soccer ball’ was extra intense, but kept the mood light. Everything seemed normal…

It wasn’t until the final annoyingly loud Utica horn sounded and the scream of the fans erupted the Aud that I knew it was all over. Nothing in this world could prepare me for the rush of emotion, sadness, and that dreaded final buzzer. I sat on the bench in shock, feet feeling like they were cemented into the ground as I did not want to leave the ice surface. I knew once I had skated off the ice for the last time, not only my collegiate hockey career, but my competitive hockey career was coming to a close. Once I made it onto the ice my freshman teammate and stallmate Eryn Stewart found me and gave me a pat on the head and a hug and told me I had an amazing game and that she loved me. Tears ripped down my face, I tried to crack a smile; my eyes locked on the exit door to the ice surface, I slowly made my way.

Sitting in the lockerroom after the loss, more of my teammates consoled me while I tried to pay attention to Coach Dillon’s speech. During that time, it gave me a chance to reflect on the last 4 seasons that I pulled that Laker jersey over my head and represented such a promising program. Our senior class started out with a few more faces, and over the years we gained some and lost more. Alas, the last seven seniors standing have accomplished so much for this program and has without a doubt left a legacy. We have made it to the playoffs every single year, helped Coach Dillon reach 100 wins for the Laker program, taken points (for this first time in Laker history) from rivals Plattsburgh and Elmira along with a first program W against Plattsburgh in Plattsburgh, and most of us reached the milestone of 100+ career collegiate games (Kendall Applebaum, Alexa Aramburu, Alyssa Brockmann, Erika Truschke, and Allison Ullrich). Although we never got our hopeful 20+ win season, or an ECAC West Title, even a trip to the NCAA tournament, it is nothing to be ashamed of. With what we have accomplished as a group, there is no doubt in my mind that we, the senior class, have left a great legacy.

Assistant Women's Ice Hockey Coach Greg Haney takes a selfie with the 7 seniors.

Assistant Women’s Ice Hockey Coach Greg Haney takes a selfie with the 7 seniors.

In the end, I couldn’t be more proud to have been an Oswego State Laker and to continue my collegiate hockey career with some of my best friends. It is crazy to realize that my 16-year relationship with competitive hockey has come to a close, but it will always be a part of me. The game of hockey has molded me into the person that I am today and although it is over, I will be able to look back and be thankful for the memories, laughs, tears, broken bones, sore muscles, early morning practices, and trophies; but I will always be especially thankful for my parents for giving me the opportunity to pursue my dreams.

~Thank you hockey~

Student Athlete Guide: The Final Buzzer

You are never going to be prepared when the final buzzer rings. No matter how many articles you read, how many naysayers state their opinions to you, or how many teammates you have watched go through this process, when the clock hits zero on your final game of your athletic career, your whole world becomes still.

On Saturday March 5th 2016, my athletic career came to a close. Upon returning to the locker room the mood was sombre amongst my teammates. I kept my head low and didn’t utter a word, I was scared of what emotion would escape out of me and even more fearful that I would become too overwhelmed if I tried to talk. I physically started to shake trying to contain the emotion that I was feeling.  When Coach Dillon came in and started talking, I was only registering bits and pieces of what she was saying, all I was thinking was “This is it. After 18 years involved in competitive sports, I am done.”

As I composed myself enough to glance around the room,  my eyes fell upon my fellow senior teammates and that’s when it dawned on me. I was being selfish. I was being selfish in the sense that I was pitying myself, thinking that this is just about me and what I am feeling. I didn’t realize that those who have been by my side the past four years are dealing with this same fate. Regardless if we are are experiencing this on different levels of the emotional spectrum, this is all about us. The four of us are now in our own boat.

Class of 2016 (From left to right) Jayme McCreary, Lizzy Marks, Bailee Goodon, Tori Trovato

Class of 2016 (From left to right) Jayme McCreary, Lizzy Marks, Bailee Goodon, Tori Trovato

So when coaches asked if the seniors wanted to talk, I for one didn’t want to. But again I was resorting back to what I felt and not what my senior teammates might need to hear. So I swallowed the lump in my throat and I spoke. I talked about how the coaching staff sent the seniors an article before we started our playoff run, by Harvard Senior, Ice Hockey Captain, Jimmy Vesey. In the article Vesey talked about how he declined to go up to the NHL with the Nashville Predators at the conclusion of his Junior season so that he could finish out his college career. Vesey emphasized the honor and pure ecstasy you get to be able to play for your college, but more importantly that there are no trades in college, or kids playing for the next contract deal. In college you simply just play for the school but more importantly you play for each other. Ultimately Vesey’s message was to remind every athlete and especially ever senior, the difference these past four years make on your life.

As the coaches left the team returned to their routines of getting their bags packed up, meeting up with parents, and showering up. All the seniors stayed in full equipment for what seemed like hours, nobody dared to move. I think we all just wanted to sit in our uniforms for just one moment longer. Teammates would pass us and exchanged a sympathetic look, in which we are grateful for but you can’t help but notice the look in their eyes in terms of “I am glad it’s not my time yet.”

By the time I found my parents I could tell that this was  just as tough for them as it was for me. I let myself be embraced by their arms.  I am the youngest of three in my family and all of my siblings were involved in sports. The past 25 years my parents have been the the biggest sports fans to my siblings and I. All that our family has known in our lives is being involved with sports. So just like myself, my parents are also in a new discovery phase of their life and the big question of what next?

I’m not going to lie when I tell you that the next few weeks are going to be easy, hell the next couple months until graduation are are frankly going to be brutal. All your life you have known the person that you are with competitive sports. Being an athlete on a team, that’s bigger than yourself and means something special. You now enter a complete unknown of who you are without sports, it’s a rediscovery phase that is going to be a process. Yes there are adult leagues that you can play in, and you can still play the sport that you love, but the lifestyle is completely different.

When I was having a rough day I called up my dad. He told me that it’s okay to feel sad, and be angry with reality but to not lose touch with who you are. I asked him how could I possibly do that if who I am is being an athlete? It wasn’t until I was typing up this blog when I realized what he was trying to say to me. Hockey is who I am yes. It’s a beautiful piece in what makes up me. But it’s just one piece. I now have the opportunity to build up the other pieces that I am composed of that I couldn’t have before, I now have the chance to discover and learn new things about myself. To go on this new adventure of life with a new sense of purpose.

So when that final buzzer sounds, and the clock ticks away its last second, don’t be afraid to be engulfed by the emotion because what you have accomplished in your athletic career is now a beautiful piece of you.