Patrick Shanahan / Cornell Athletics

These four seniors have formed a special bond over the last four years.

February 14, 2019

Unsung Heroes: Seniors Cement Legacy of Unrelenting Tenacity

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From getting their start watching their siblings on the ice to playing hockey at a nationally ranked school, senior forwards Diana Buckley, Pippy Gerace and Lenka Serdar and senior goalkeeper Marlene Boissonnault have left their mark on Cornell Hockey.

After watching the four seniors move in unison on the ice like pistons in a well-oiled machine, it is hard to believe that they have such diverse interests outside of the rink.

“We all live together,” Buckley said, “but all of us have our fingers in a different project at all times. Which is really cool because we overlap with hockey, but in most other things we don’t overlap. So we have a lot talk about because we’re not sharing every moment together.”

Off the ice, Buckley has worked at the Cornell Botanical Gardens and Gerace at Cornell Health. Serdar is a intergroup dialogue facilitator and Boissonnault, an aspiring physician, has spent countless hours shadowing doctors.

“We’re all lifelong learners in this class for sure,” Boissonnault said. “We learned from the upperclassmen and saw what worked and didn’t work and just stuck together.”

Lenka Serdar lining up for a faceoff. She led the Red in faceoff wins last year.

Boris Tsang / Sun Assistant Photography Editor

Lenka Serdar lining up for a face-off. She led the Red in face-off wins last year.

Carving Out a Legacy

The quartet has worked relentlessly since their freshman year to establish themselves as the group willing to do whatever it takes to help the team — regardless of whether it brings them individual laurels or not.

“There’s a term in hockey called the grinder,” Buckley said. “They’re basically the person who a lot of times doesn’t get all the glory for scoring goals, having good hands or dangling, but they’re the person who’s willing to go into the boards battles and fight for their teammates. I think that term embodies all four of us on and off the ice.”

Though they might not have been the top scorers on the team, their impact on the Red has been tangible since their freshmen year. All four were an integral part of the 2016-17 and 2017-18 squads that secured back-to-back Ivy titles, the 2017-18 team that ended the season ranked No.6/6 in the nation, and the No.6/6 team this season that is currently ranked No.2 in the ECAC and a top contender for a spot in the NCAA tournament.

Individually, their statistics also reflect the “grinder” mentality that Buckley mentioned. Gerace, Serdar and Buckley have each skated in over 100 games for the Red and Boissonnault has earned 14 shutouts over the course of her career, ranking her third all-time in Cornell’s history.

Collectively, Gerace, Serdar and Buckley have tallied a respectable 54 goals and 82 assists thus far. Serdar also led the way for the Red last season in face-offs by winning an astonishing 344, and Buckley earned a spot on the Wall of Honor this year — a strength and conditioning honor reserved for the strongest and most agile top 10 percent of athletes. Additionally, Gerace overcame a torn ACL that cut her sophomore campaign short. She returned for her junior season, playing in all but two games and ending the season with a +1 rating.

Between the pipes, Boissonnault has established herself as a formidable goaltender in her time at Cornell — making 1,471 career saves and posting an impressive .927 save percentage this season.

But the ice isn’t the only place that the seniors’ unbridled determination has been evident. When the ice at Lynah was unavailable earlier this year, the seniors said that the team had to make the arduous hour-long round trip to Cortland every morning to be able to get on the ice. The seniors embraced the opportunity — waking up at 4:30 a.m., practicing and then rushing back to class — as a time for the team to bond.

“It’s dark, busses aren’t even running, a lot of us had to go scoop up the freshmen,” Gerace said. “A lot of mornings the rink manager wasn’t even there to open the rink and we were just sitting there waiting for him. But, it made me feel like a kid again playing at a random rink and getting dressed in the hallway. I just think moments like that are what brings a team together.”


Reflections on the Ice

Given the plethora of highs Cornell hockey has had over the past four years, the seniors had a difficult time choosing just one favorite memory. One moment that stands out in their minds is winning the Ivy League title in 2017.

“We had won at Brown, who wasn’t the strongest competitor at the time, and it was a blowout game,” Buckley said. “We were all just so excited. It was the first time in a couple of years [that we won the Ivy title].”

For Serdar, a Massachusetts native, the Red’s 6-0 shutout win against Harvard at the Bright-Landry Center this season is one she won’t soon forget.

“Our class hadn’t won at that rink in the four years that we’d been there,” Serdar said. “And for me personally, I had a lot of friends and family in attendance and it’s the last time a lot of them will ever see me play. Our team came out firing and that whole day was amazing.”

As their time as Cornell hockey players draws to a close, the four agreed that they would most miss the team itself.

“We’ve seen each other almost everyday for the past four years,” Gerace said. “And you go on Christmas break and it feels like you haven’t seen your teammates in years and it’s been two weeks. So I think once hockey ends we’re not going to see the team as much and it’s kind of sad, but we have lifelong friends now.”

Playing their last regular season home games this weekend, they expressed appreciation for the loyal fanbase of the Lynah Faithful.

“The amount of genuine, loving fans we have is a big part that can’t be recreated,” Boissonnault said. “The fans we get here are phenomenal. You see them here every game regardless of the score or the season we’re having. Our fans are there day in, day out, and that’s a great thing that’s going to be missed for sure.”

As the reverberations of their sticks echo through Lynah as they salute the fans after each game, the reverberations of their tenacity and grit will be felt by the team long after Nos. 1, 15, 17 and 19 graduate.