Minnesota freshman Sonja Stojic (left), a former Whitman hockey player, proudly holds the ACHA championship cup after helping the Lady Gophers to the title last weekend in Ashburn. (Photo courtesy of the Stojic family)

Steve and Mary Stojic’s house in Bethesda became the most crowded hotel in town last week, with borrowed sleeping materials stuffed into every bit of free space to accommodate 15 hockey players.

Their daughter Sonja, a former player at Whitman and with the Reston Raiders, is now a freshman forward for the women’s club team at the University of Minnesota. The Lady Gophers had qualified for the American Collegiate Hockey Association Division I national tournament in Ashburn and needed budget-friendly lodging.

The Stojics offered up their residence for the four-night stay and put out a call for any available air mattresses and sleeping bags. The team not only managed to fit — it went out and won the national championship, defeating Liberty 2-0 in Sunday’s final game.

“It was really crazy,” Sonja Stojic said of the arrangement.

“I think it was definitely something that brought us all together, just the fact that every night we could hang out and make food together and watch movies together.”

Stojic provided the Lady Gophers with much more than free accommodations this season. She finished sixth on the team with 10 goals and tied for seventh with 17 points, notching a goal and an assist as Minnesota went 2-1 in tournament pool play. The Lady Gophers advanced despite losing to Liberty in their last pool play contest, then beat Massachusetts 5-1 in Saturday’s semifinals before taking the rematch against Liberty to claim the trophy.

The tournament capped an eventful season for Stojic, who had enrolled at Minnesota to pursue a degree in architecture and continue her hockey career. But there was no guarantee she would make the team, which draws the rest of its players from the Midwest, if not Minnesota itself.

“It was definitely a little bit worrisome,” she said. “Tryouts were just crazy. Everyone was pretty much from Minnesota or Wisconsin, and I was a little girl from Maryland just hoping to play some hockey. It was a little intimidating.”

Stojic not only made the team but contributed far more than she had expected to as a freshman. The three years she spent holding her own with the boys at Whitman certainly didn’t hurt.

“I loved playing with the guys. It definitely helped with my level of play, and the guys were absolutely great,” Stojic said. “I’m really great friends with a lot of them now. I had an amazing time playing for Whitman.”

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