Last updated: February 19. 2013 6:31PM - 528 Views

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The loss of prestige bothered Kayla Gluchowski, and the rest of her West Chester University teammates.

She committed her college career to playing Division I field hockey. And halfway through it, the school decided to drop down to play at the Division II level.

When we found that out as a team, Gluchowski said, we battled it. We tried to fight it. Our parents wrote letters to the athletic director. We signed on to play at a Division I program.

We felt that's what we needed to be.

Not anymore.

Not after Gluchowski, a former Crestwood High School star, led the Rams to their second consecutive Division II national championship earlier this month.

The senior tri-captain lifted the Rams into the title game by scoring a late game-winner in the national semifinals, then triggered a 5-0 victory over UMass Lowell with the first goal of the title game.

Obviously an incredible feeling, Gluchowski described it.

It was made more special to her sharing the moment with a group of players from back home.

Sophomore Hannah Davies and freshman Alexa Moran, a couple of Gluchowski's old Crestwood High School teammates, played key roles in West Chester's 2012 title run – along with Leanne McManus, a freshman from Meyers.

I think it's great, said the daughter of Jodie Balliet and Andy Gluchowski, who returned home to Mountain Top this week for the Thanksgiving break. Back in this area, we have so many great field hockey athletes.

Gluchowski praised McManus and Moran as promising forwards who played in most of West Chester's games as freshmen, and says the strong-shooting sophomore Davies is the same star-quality player she respected when they played together at Crestwood.

Having them all as teammates, Gluchowski said, made her final collegiate national championship most gratifying.

This year, it's a different feeling, Gluchowski, 21, said. Last year, we didn't even know if we were going to get in the NCAA tournament, because we lost in the PSAC quarterfinals. We were the underdogs. This year, we deserved to be there.

And we deserved that win.

They attained it largely because of Gluchowski.

With 60 seconds remaining in the national semifinal and the teams mentally preparing to play overtime, Gluchowski flicked in a wrister that lifted the Rams to a 3-2 victory.

I don't know how I did it, Gluchowski said, calling the game one of the most intense I've ever played in.

She helped relieve some of West Chester's pressure early in the title tilt, scoring the first goal to loosen up the Rams.

Kayla, from the first time I saw her play in junior high, was an absolute competitor, said her old high school coach, Crestwood's Elvetta Gemski. She always wanted to play her best and be the best.

Now Gluchowski is.

And she can thank a decision she once detested for that.

Once we knew there was no way we could stop it, Gluchowski said of West Chester's drop to Division II, we started we started working at it (a national title). I don't think I ever considered transferring.

I'm not afraid of challenge. You just can't compete against Division I teams with so much talent, because we couldn't recruit like them.

It was the right decision.

Now, Gluchowski will have a decision of her own to make.

She'll graduate early from West Chester in three weeks, then head off to nursing school somewhere.

Maybe Maryland, maybe Florida, Gluchowski said. I want to go see the country.

She already saw what can happen when you not only accept an unpleasant fate, but change it into a positive.

Which is one thing she'll be celebrating on this Thanksgiving Day.

There's a lot, Gluchowski said, to be thankful for.

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