GREGORY DIXON/Herald photoOn Sunday, the UW women’s hockey team will engage in the time-honored tradition of honoring their seniors as the season winds to a close. This year’s class already has one national championship under its belt and seems well on its way to having another as the playoffs near, as the program has reached elite status nationally within the sport.A class of seven, including a Patty Kazmeier award winner and the school’s all team leading scorer, the school’s all-time shutout leader and two of the best defensemen in the country, this year’s exiting class could be the most talented in school history. Though it seems that leading a statistical category nationally comes with being a senior on this year’s squad, not all of this year’s seniors’ performances can be measured by the numbers.Despite not being among the All-conference and All-American members of the class, seniors Phoebe Monteleone and Heidi Kletzien both said they are perfectly happy with their roles on the team and their time wearing cardinal and white.”It’s almost better with [seven seniors] because we can spread that leadership across the team,” Monteleone said. “Slusar and Mikkelson lead by example on the ice, and me and Heidi try to do it more through encouragement. But we all have different roles, and we all mesh.”According to Kletzein, all the seniors on the team have a leadership role.”We’re just trying to provide the guidance and show the team what we need to do to stay at the level we’re at and keep it up for the rest of the season,” she said.Having fellow teammates receive all sorts of accolades has done nothing to hurt the relationship between Monteleone and her fellow seniors.”I think we’re a really close-knit group, and we respect and appreciate each other,” Monteleone said.With four regular season games still to go, the Badgers have impressively clinched the regular season title and will be the No. 1 seed in the WCHA tournament regardless of how they play the rest of the way.In an unfamiliar position having never before won the regular season crown so early, the leadership and experience of Monteleone and Kletzien will be important as the Badgers try to keep their intensity level high.”This is still another two really important weeks,” Kletzien said. “We can still work on a lot of things.”According to Monteleone, the experience of winning the national title last season has taught us the team they always need to keep improving.Monteleone and Kletzien, linemates along with sophomore Kayla Hagen, have each recorded their share of fine moments with the program and each has contributed to the success of the team and the program as it has grown in their four years in Madison.After missing the NCAA tournament entirely during the 2003-04 season, Wisconsin qualified for the first time in school history for the NCAA tournament the next season. And last year, they took another leap forward, winning the national championship and establishing themselves as one of the nation’s top programs.Now playing at the highest level of hockey in the eight-year history of the program, it’s quite clear how different things have become.”It’s been really neat, as far as women’s hockey as a whole, and seeing each year become better and better,” Monteleone said. “It’s been a fun four years for sure.”According to Kletzien, the team has gotten better and better, and this year she said they have “more chemistry than we’ve ever had.””[I]t’s a really excit[ing] time for the program coming off a national championship and being on the right path this season,” Kletzien added. “I’m really excited with where we are right now, and I’m excited to have this opportunity as a senior.”When the seniors are announced Sunday, Wisconsin will say goodbye to practically all of the school’s major record holders. Monteleone and Kletzien will be right beside them, though. And while they might not have received the same press or put up the same numbers, they’ve certainly earned their place as part of this year’s senior class.* A correction was made on the original copy that printed Feb. 7, 2007.
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