By Meredith Cook
Special to GoHolyCross.com
The Holy Cross women’s basketball team heads into the 2009-2010 season with three leaders who have reached great milestones and achievements with the program. Headlining this year’s campaign will be head coach Bill Gibbons, who enters his 25th season with the women’s team. After going 13-17 overall in 2008-2009 and tying for third in the Patriot League with an 8-6 record, before falling to Army in the conference tournament quarterfinals, Gibbons looks to rebound back with a seasoned line up including five seniors. Two of those seniors are captains who have proved their success on the court. “Anytime a coach is given five seniors who are hard-workers, know your program and really buy into your program, you automatically realize how blessed you are. That’s what we have this year,” said Gibbons. With his veterans, as well as his own devotion and knowledgeable practices, Gibbons remains a key element to leading his 2009-2010 squad back to its winning ways.
The two captains for this year’s team, seniors Briana McFadden and Bethany O’Dell are extremely experienced and have made themselves well-known in the Holy Cross record books. Both players became members of the 1,000 point club last year, just the eighth and ninth juniors in program history to accomplish that feat. McFadden was a first team All-Patriot League selection last year as she led the league in scoring average. She also made her way to the top five of Holy Cross’ single-season lists in free throws made, free throws attempted, minutes played and average minutes played. O’Dell was named to the All-Patriot League second team and has already topped the Holy Cross record books in three-point performances. She ranks first on the career list for three-pointers made and three-pointers attempted. Her 65 three-pointers from last season are second on the single-season record list and her 174 attempted three-pointers rank third. With so many accomplishments already registered, both captains hope to use their experience as guidance and direction for the upcoming season.
Accompanying the two captains are seniors Tayana Carper, Christy Cushnie and Jessica Pearson. All three have made influential contributions to the team, with Carper and Pearson looking to come back from injuries and make a great impact in their last season. “These three, in addition to our captains, have really been the core in our preseason and in leading us and are very focused on getting us back to the top,” said Gibbons.
Carper scored a career-high 24 points against Missouri last year
prior to her injury. She also marked career-highs in field goals
made (10), field goals attempted (13) and minutes played (41) in
the triple-overtime game. A fifth-year senior, Pearson looks to
contend for playing time at point guard. She made some waves last
season, notching career-highs in points (11 at Vermont), rebounds
(eight at Lafayette) and minutes played (32 at Lafayette). Cushnie
also remains an ever-improving, involved player. At guard, she set
career-highs in minutes played (36), three pointers-made (three)
and three-pointers attempted (six) against Colgate last season. She
also averaged a career-high 2.6 points-per-game (76 total) and
collected 26 steals, leading the team in two contests. In addition,
Cushnie came back in great shape to be the team’s go-to
substitution player. “Christy is extremely ready to be the
spark in the backcourt that we really need from our bench
players,” said Gibbons.
The frontcourt will lean on Whitney Fremeau, who is one of the most experienced forwards on the squad. Fremeau comes off a season where she mainly played at power forward for the first time, adapting to the role well. In the 2008-2009 season, she scored 243 points and brought down a total of 142 rebounds. Her 4.7 rebounding average led the team as she also recorded career-highs in points (18 vs. Colgate), rebounds (11 at Rhode Island), assists (5, twice) and minutes played (34, three times) in last year’s campaign. She also notched her first career double-double (13 points, 11 rebounds) against Rhode Island.
Alyssa May also adds additional depth to this year’s
frontcourt. She will play her second season as a forward/guard.
Last year she saw action in 22 games, starting 11 contests. In all,
she averaged 22 minutes, 5.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. Her
rebound average tied for second highest on the team and she also
finished the season with a .725 free throw percentage, third
highest on the team. May led the team in steals in six
Because coach Gibbons looks to move McFadden more off the ball, from point guard to the wing, sophomore Meredith Ward will look to win the starting spot at point guard. In her freshman campaign, Ward saw playing time in 27 games, making five starts. She averaged 1.2 points, 1.2 rebounds and 1.0 assists per-game, while also averaging 12.9 minutes to lead her class. She scored a season-high seven points in two games and brought down a season-high five rebounds against Vermont.
Marygrace Jay looks to become a force in the frontcourt after
spending her freshman year at the forward position. She saw action
in 18 games last year, totaling 31 points, 16 rebounds, six assists
and three steals. She also made all of her field goal attempts in
four different contests in 2008-2009, while averaging 4.9 minutes,
1.7 points and 0.9 rebounds per-game.
“I’m very excited about our incoming class,” said Gibbons. “We have three players that I believe can make an instant impact on our program.” Kaitlin Cole comes to Worcester from Philadelphia, Pa., where she played for the 2009 PIAA AAA state championship team at Archbishop Carroll. She will play at forward for the Crusaders, after she finished her high school senior season at guard averaging 12.3 points-per-game and was selected to the All-Philadelphia Catholic League first team.
Amy Lepley is another player coming off injury, missing most of her high school senior year due to a leg injury. She was arguably one of the best players in Massachusetts, playing for the four-time EAC championship team, Bishop Feehan. She will compete for time at both point guard and shooting guard, having completed her high school career with an average of 16 points, eight rebounds, six assists and four steals per game while at Bishop Feehan.
The third freshman, Alexis Nicholas, hails from Jamaica, N.Y., and looks to make an impact as a true guard, splitting time between the point guard and shooting guard spots. Nicholas played five years of varsity basketball at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City. In her time there, she scored a school-record 2,069 total points and was named team MVP for four-consecutive seasons. In her senior campaign she averaged 29 points, eight rebounds and eight assists per-game.
Holy Cross carries the tradition of a competitive schedule into the 2009-2010 season, including a match-up against defending NCAA champion Connecticut at the DCU Center in Worcester, Mass., as well as participation in the Maine Classic and the Hawk Holiday Classic at Monmouth.
“We’re excited about our schedule,” said Gibbons. “We’ve added a couple more New England-area games with New Hampshire and Central Connecticut. Of course, a highlight for us is the chance to play the undefeated, six-time national champion Connecticut Huskies in Worcester. We go on the road a lot early, but I’m confident that our five seniors will have us ready for that test.”
The Crusaders will also host 11 home games in Worcester at the Hart Center. Northeastern, Vermont, Dartmouth, Rhode Island and seven Patriot League squads will make the trip to the top of Mount St. James.
On the road Holy Cross will face Yale, Bryant, Boston College and Harvard, as well as the two new additions of Central Connecticut and New Hampshire. The team also travels to each of the other Patriot League schools as well.
Holy Cross also plays host to the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds of the Patriot League Tournament on March 6 and 7. “We’re very excited to host the Patriot League tournament at the Hart Center,” said Gibbons. “It offers us a great opportunity to show the entire league how good of a host we can be.”