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From California to Colby: Lawrence, San Roman lead Mules

Sean Lawrence and Cierra San Roman still dream of their native California— both Colby goaltenders have the Golden State outline on the back of their masks—but they are chasing their hockey dreams in Maine, more than 3,000 miles away.

The New England Small College Athletic Conference has only 14 players from California in men's and women's hockey. Colby's lone pair from the state just happen to be the starting goalies for each squad.

The California duo are two big reasons why both Colby teams made this Saturday's NESCAC quarterfinals. Lawrence and the men play at Amherst at 6 p.m., while San Roman leads the women at Connecticut College at 1 p.m.

While the goalies share the same home state and the same spot in the crease, their journeys to Colby could not have been more different.

Lawrence, a senior from Granite Park (near Sacramento), transferred from Quinnipiac University halfway through his junior year and had been on the road playing junior hockey since he was age 15. San Roman, a first-year from Orange (near Anaheim), had to play boys' varsity hockey in California, finally going the prep school route with New Hampton School in New Hampshire.

"There were only two girls' club teams in the entire state, one in Anaheim and the other in San Jose. In high school I was the only girl on the boys’ team," San Roman said. "When I went to prep school it was the first time I ever played in a girls' hockey league. At that point, I never knew that a girls' hockey league even existed."

While California is growing in hockey popularity, Lawrence also had to leave the state to play top-level competition. He left home at age 15 to play two years in Overland Park, Kansas, before spending the next two years in Plano, Texas, at ages 17 and 18. 

"Things started when I attended a goalie camp in Minnesota and one of the coaches thought I could play in Kansas," Lawrence said. "My family was more supportive than I ever could have imagined. I lived with host families and was living in basements."

The two-year trend continued with Lawrence after Texas. He came east to play with the Boston Junior Bruins for two years, played a little over two years at Quinnipiac, and now nearly two years at Colby.

"Sean epitomizes taking the road less traveled. His journeys have been set by using his mind and his passion for hockey," said Blaise MacDonald, the Jack Kelley Head Coach for Colby Men's Hockey. "He is willing to take on any challenge that will make him the best version of himself and allow him to reach his outer limits. His experiences have had a great impact on our entire team and culture."

San Roman looks relaxed on the ice and that demeanor may have come from consistently playing with older girls during youth hockey and the boys in high school. She played at a level four birth years up because of the lack of girls on teams. San Roman played forward when she played with the girls, but stayed in the net with the boys.

San Roman was being recruited by Dartmouth College at the same time Colby head coach Holley Tyng was leaving Dartmouth for Colby.

"Cierra has exceeded my expectations this season. During the recruiting process I knew she was solid technically and that she could steal a game, but what I didn’t pick up on was just how committed and dedicated she is," Tyng said. "She’s the type of teammate who will do anything for others and that personality lends itself well to being a goaltender. The future of our program is bright knowing we have Cierra in the crease."

While San Roman should be a NESCAC Rookie of the Year candidate and helped the Mules improve by six wins this season, Lawrence is hoping to study mechanical engineering for two years as part of Colby’s dual-degree program.

But first come the NESCAC playoffs - the first time for Lawrence last year was a heartbreaking quarterfinal loss at home to Wesleyan University.

"The first thing I notice about (Sean) is that he is really, really good," San Roman said with a laugh. "His puck handling ability stands out and as a goalie you see his confidence on the ice."

San Roman has the Mules back in the playoffs and has faced constant pressure this season while starting all but one of the conference games. Her tour de force was a 47-save performance in a 0-0 tie against then 10th-ranked Amherst College in January.

"When I look at the stats, she's often facing 40-plus shots a game," Lawrence said. "There is a lot of pressure on her to keep the score down and she's doing a great job for them."

Both of the goalies have a part of California with them during their time at Colby. Lawrence has the state painted in white on the back of his mask. San Roman has California with the In-N-Out Burger logo on the back left side and Maine on the right side with a lobster. 

In between the two states is the number 3,150, to reflect the miles from California to Maine. Just a reminder how far the journey has taken both of them.