UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Anna Promersberger is learning how to lead her team from afar, as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic continues to alter the college sports landscape. Promersberger, from Fargo, is one of three Penn State women’s hockey players who will wear a letter on their jersey this year.
Promersberger returned to campus around four weeks ago after five months of pandemic living at her family home in Fargo. During a time of uncertainty in sports, she had something to celebrate once she returned to the East Coast. Penn State announced its captains for the 2020-21 season last week, and Promersberger will be wearing the "A" this year.
“I was honored. I’m just excited for the year, to be able to get to know my teammates even more,” Promersberger said. “Especially since we had eight freshmen coming in, I was excited to help them get acclimated to the new program. I’ll try my best because of the certain circumstances.”
Promersberger hasn’t met many of her freshman teammates face-to-face. With traditional team-bonding moments now taking place virtually, the former West Fargo Packers hockey standout is navigating how to connect with limited in-person interaction.
The team has been training in smaller groups this year. There are four freshmen in Promersberger’s group for skating, along with three other girls. The Nittany Lions are also split up in separate locker rooms. Away from the rink, she doesn’t see any of her other teammates outside of the group she practices with, unless it’s over Zoom.
“I’ve gotten to know some of (the new teammates) pretty well. But otherwise I’ve reached out, calling them and making sure they’re OK mentally with all the craziness going on,” she said.
Promersberger said her team is making the most of it and will be ready when the time comes.
“I've just been trying to focus more on school because there is so much unknown for hockey,” Promersberger said. “And if you think about it too much, it starts to get into your head and it gets stressful. So just trying to get prepared and be ready for when our name is called to play.”
Promersberger is ready to help lead the young group whenever the season resumes, which isn’t known yet.
The Hockey Commissioners Association announced Thursday the 2020-21 season won’t start on time. The HCA is the representing body of the 11 Division I hockey conferences including College Hockey America, the conference the Nittany Lions belong to.
Each conference will announce details on game schedules, including start dates, individually, the organization said in a press release Thursday.
Promersberger saw action in 34 games last year, recording five points (two goals, three assists). The Nittany Lions went 13-15-8 overall last season. She skated in the same number of games as a freshman, netting two goals — including a game-winner — and dishing out four assists.
“Promersberger (Fargo, N.D.) has been a key two-way player for Penn State the past two seasons scoring 11 points in 67 games,” a Sept. 2 release announcing Penn State’s captains for the 2020-21 season said.
Promersberger played two seasons (2013-14, 2014-15) for West Fargo before attending Shattuck St. Mary’s in Faribault, Minn. She was a part of the 2013-14 North Dakota state championship team as an eighth-grader.
She wowed Penn State as a young player. The Division I program reached out to Promersberger the summer after her freshman year, impressed by her performance at a summer showcase.
“I honestly at the time didn't even know Penn State had women's hockey. It was pretty new,” she said. “It was only a few years old when I first got the email. And at the time, I was looking at (the University of North Dakota) as well, which obviously is no longer a thing. So I was kind of choosing between those two. I didn't really see myself coming here at first because I kind of wanted to stay in the area, but then I came out to visit around Christmas time, and it just felt right.”
UND, which is much closer to home, cut the women’s hockey program in March 2017. Promersberger went to Fargo Oak Grove, which was in a co-op with West Fargo at the time. Promersberger would have technically been in the Fargo South district, where she ended up living the last five months.
Promersberger went home for spring break after the Nittany Lions lost to Mercyhurst in the conference tournament in early March.
She trained in Fargo all summer with equipment she had at home.
“It was definitely an adjustment, especially because it was still snowing outside when I came home, so I couldn't necessarily run outside or anything at first,” she said. “It was only like three weeks that the rinks were closed in Fargo and then they opened up again, so I was able to skate.”
She had access to some ice time over the months and skated with her sister. Promersberger’s sister, Abby, is a former Fargo North-South standout. She led the state in points as a sophomore, and left last year to play her junior season for the Twin Cities-based Minnesota Ice Cougars U19 team.
Once things opened up a little more during the pandemic, the sisters did power skating and men’s league at night to help prepare for Anna's upcoming junior campaign.