UW Health Sports Medicine 

Looking back on 2009-10

Tracey DeKeyser has been with the Wisconsin women's hockey program since its inception in 1999. DeKeyser has filled the roles of a recruiter and assistant coach, but was faced with a new challenge at the start of the 2009-10 season.

DeKeyser's task was daunting. Wisconsin head coach Mark Johnson led the Badgers to a national championship in 2009 and then took a one-year sabbatical after being named head coach of the 2010 Olympic U.S. women's hockey team. With Johnson gone, DeKeyser was called on to fill in as the interim head coach in his absence.

DeKeyser led the Badgers to an 18-15-3 overall record, but ended the season with two-straight first-round playoff losses to Ohio State.

Johnson will return as the Badgers' head coach at the start of the 2010-11 season, and DeKeyser will resume her duties as an assistant coach.

What was it like to fill in for someone's spot, knowing they would shortly return? Justin Mozer from the UW Athletic Communications office looks back on the season with DeKeyser as preparations for the 2010-11 season have already begun.

What was your initial reaction when you were named head coach?
Gratitude. Our women's hockey program has evolved into a national contender over the last few seasons, and I wanted to uphold the quality and tradition that we had built into the program.

What experiences best prepared you to take over as head coach?
I have been with the program since its infancy, and having endured a series of coaching changes over the years, I know what it is like to undergo change. I also co-coached the team during the second half of the 2001-2002 season, so I had practice filling in holes and problem-solving in challenging situations.

How did you handle the absence of Coach Johnson and the players who left for the Olympics?
For the returners, I'm certain that there was a period of adjustment.  I was the substitute teacher who had previously filled different roles as their assistant coach.  My goal from day one was to earn their trust, and that takes time, whether you're new to a team or serving in a different capacity.

How did it feel to "hold someone's spot" until he returned?

I think acting as a substitute may have been what got us through the challenging times - knowing that this was a temporary assignment.  It was an honor to carry the torch in Mark's absence this season, though we also look forward to his return.

What were your expectations for the team in the 2009-10 season?
Our staff tried to set expectations for this year's squad.  We knew that we had big skates to fill in many key positions. We added a number of new players to the roster this season, and knew it would probably take a while for the team to start firing on all cylinders.

How much pressure did you feel as head coach coming off a national championship season?
As a professional coach, there is pressure to prepare and win every game. There was a lot of build-up surrounding our first game at the Kohl Center. To add to the pressure, our 2009 national champion banner was raised to the rafters before the drop of the puck. Naturally, there was pressure to be successful once again this season.

What was the biggest challenge facing the team in the 2009-10 season?
Victories were not going to come as easily as they had in years past. We were a completely different team, with different leadership, two new assistant coaches, returners serving in very different capacities, and a large contingent of young players that we counted on to help carry the load.

How do you feel about the way the season ended?
The way that the season ended against Ohio State during the playoffs was rather indicative of our entire season - "close, but not close enough."  It was disappointing to see individuals with such talent not reach the desired group outcome.  However, one can benefit from such a learning experience, as defeat can be a great teacher. Hopefully those involved with the program have a better understanding for what it takes to be a national champion, and an accomplished leader in every aspect of our lives.

Talk about the upcoming 2010-11 season...
It's been a long season and so I welcome Mark's return.  We are pretty different individuals, though I think we complement each other well on the professional platform.  With both Duggan and Knight back in the lineup, alongside our incoming freshman class, I think that the Badgers will be a legitimate contender for the national championship once again. Ultimately, it will come down to preparation, execution and consistency.  Here's looking forward to the 2010-2011 Badger Hockey season!