Among the most accomplished forwards to skate for the dynastic Liberty Lady Flames, Vanessa DeMerchant gained a glorious closure to a great career. Capturing the ACHA national championship, a record fifth for the program, the path towards a historic feat began on a highly encouraging note.
Earning the privilege of the team captaincy in the 2021-22 season, the last in Liberty colors for DeMerchant, the honor provided a crowning achievement. Affirming her standing as one of the program’s greats, the C on her jersey evoked feelings of motivation, purpose and responsibility.
“It was a real honor to get to be the captain of such a wonderful team this season. It was not something that I wanted to take lightly and I tried to hold myself to a higher standard than I have before both on and off the ice.
I was thankful that the coaches and my teammates both saw me as someone that would be trusted in that position. That being said my team made it the easiest thing in the world.
My fellow captains (Shelby Bradford, Yannick Truter, and Dana McLeod) and the rest of the team made the year so enjoyable and it was just a great season for me to end my career.”
Amassing a solid 21 points in 19 regular season games played, DeMerchant, raised in Rothesay, New Brunswick, enjoyed six multi-point efforts. Her finest performance involved a five-point outburst versus Arizona State on November 19, 2021. Of note, 10 Lady Flames recorded at least one point in an 11-0 victory, as Amanda Storey logged her fourth shutout of the season.
During a stellar postseason run that concluded with an undefeated season, DeMerchant recorded her final points. Coincidentally, the last goal and last assist both took place versus the Maryville Saints.
In the semifinals of the Women’s Midwest College Hockey (WMCH) tournament, DeMerchant enjoyed her final goal. Scoring at the 5:27 mark of the third, part of a 6-1 victory, Shelby Bradford and Brielle Fussy earned the assists.
Facing off against the Saints once again, the opening game at the AHCA Nationals on March 18, 2022, saw DeMerchant earn an assist on a goal from Aislyn Stretch. Enjoying another convincing victory over Maryville, prevailing in a 7-0 final, the assist served as her final point.
Defeating Lindenwood in the semifinals, followed by a dominant win against Midland, both WMCH rivals, the national championship proved highly meaningful and emotional. Heading into 2022, Lindenwood and Liberty shared the record of four AHCA National Championships. Winning the record breaking fifth as team captain allowed for a poignant moment, cementing a proud legacy.
Representing the fourth national championship for the distinguished DeMerchant, the enjoyment of skating for the Lady Flames, including the opportunity to wear the Stars and Stripes at the 2019 Winter Universiade, represented a fascinating time filled with a seemingly endless list of highlights. Belonging to an era of champions, part of a cavalcade of stars, DeMerchant holds a proud place in the hearts and minds of fans and teammates alike.
Although it may be difficult to pinpoint a particular moment, the bigger picture holds a place of prominence. Attributing a solid body of work, numerous achievements representing six years in
the making, DeMerchant commendably cites an exceptional culture as an essential factor.
“It is hard to put the past six years and season into one enjoyable moment or one specific memory. When you are a part of a program like ours, every year is unique and memorable for its reasons.
As a whole though, I would say the best part of being a Lady Flame was finding the success that we had year after year. (Being) with the best girls, coaches, and staff that I have ever been a part of.
Not many people get to say they have had the amount of success that Liberty Women’s Hockey has enjoyed. It is pretty special that I got to play a small part in that success.”
Every year at Liberty, DeMerchant enjoyed the opportunity to be part of a team constantly in the conversation for the national championship. Although there were setbacks, losing the title game in her freshman season, followed by the pandemic preventing the completion of her senior season, the summit reached in 2022 provided the finish she sought.
Although the journey, and its outcome, were unfathomable a few years ago, the experience proved well worth it. Forever grateful to wear the Lady Flames jersey, reflections of gratitude define a rewarding time for DeMerchant,
“If you had asked me seven or eight years ago, if I would have been where I am today, having done all that I have here at Liberty, I probably would have thought you were delusional. It truly is surreal to think back over the years and truly grasp everything that has happened.
The people that I have met, the hockey I have played, and the experiences I gave had are enough to fulfill a lifetime; but, getting to be a 4-time National Champion has a nice ring to it (pun intended). Yet, I cannot say thank you enough to everyone that has played a role in my life that has allowed me to be here today.
There literally is not enough words I can say that would truly encompass how thankful I am to Liberty University and the Women’s hockey program.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”