GRAND FORKS-When Lauren Hennessey and her parents left their Boston home at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday and boarded a plane for Grand Forks, her dream of one day playing Division I college hockey was as alive as ever.
A native of Lynnfield, Mass., Hennessey lived, breathed and ate hockey since she was old enough to know how to lace up her skates.
"I have played goalie since I was six-years-old with the dream of one day playing Division I," Hennessey said.
That dream would eventually become a reality after Hennessey made a verbal commitment to be the future goalie of the University of North Dakota women's hockey team.
"I had multiple Division I offers, but made my decision on UND because of its Olympic and professional hockey history," Hennessey said.
After arriving in Grand Forks around 12:30 p.m. with her family by her side, Hennessey was greeted with a smile by the women's athletic staff, where she and her family would then spend the next two hours touring the campus and the arena. The dream of playing Division I hockey was still very, very alive.
And then, the news came.
After watching the UND women's team practice, Hennessey was asked to meet and talk with the coaching staff. That is when head coach Brian Idalski informed Hennessey that the UND women's hockey program was getting cut from the athletic department. The dream was no longer a reality.
"My parents and I were in complete shock," Hennessey said. "It all took a while to sink in before we realized what was truly happening."
At approximately 3:30 p.m., UND athletic director Brian Faison made the announcement official during a press conference. UND women's hockey, along with men's and women's swimming and diving, would be eliminated effective at the end of the 2016-17 academic year. The cuts are part of a school-wide effort to trim budgets due to an anticipated drop in state funding.
"I rejected a lot of Division I offers to come to UND," Hennessey said.
With a majority of Division I women's hockey programs already locking in their commitments for this year and the year's ahead, Hennessey is now worried that her hockey career might be coming to an abrupt end.
"This puts me in a very tough situation," Hennessey said. "My dream of playing Division I hockey is now slim-to-none."
Despite the awful news, Hennessey remains hopeful that the program will be saved and says that she feels even more sorry for the UND coaching staff and current players, who are all now left wondering what to do next.
"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."