Women's Basketball Aims For Fifth-Consecutive Win Against Maine

Christine Ganser

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The Teams: Holy Cross (3-4, 0-0 PL) vs. Maine (1-5, 0-0 America East)
Date: December 4, 2010
Time: 1:00 p.m.
Place: Hart Center (3,600)

Holy Cross Radio: Stretch Internet Radio; Dick Lutsk, play-by-play: Listen Here
MaineRadio: Black Bears Sports Network, Don Shields, play-by-play
Unofficial Live Statistics: Prestosports

Series Record: Holy Cross leads, 9-3
Last Meeting: Holy Cross 61, Maine 59 (November 27, 2009, Orono, Maine)

THE SERIES WITH MAINE: Saturday's contest will be the 13th meeting between the Crusaders and Black Bears. Holy Cross holds a 9-3 advantage in the all-time series and has won the last four contests. The teams are playing for the sixth consecutive season, with Holy Cross taking a 61-59 win in Orono the last time out. The The last time Holy Cross lost to Maine was on Jan. 2, 2006. The Black Bears won that game 77-67 at the Portland (Maine) Civic Center. The teams first played in 1984, with the Crusaders winning at home, 75-57. The Crusaders won the first three match-ups, winning by at least seven points in each contest. Head coach Bill Gibbons has led his team to the 8-3 series lead, winning the last four meetings by a margin of 280-236. This will be Maine head coach Cindy Blodgett's fifth meeting against Holy Cross as she looks to gain her first win against the Crusaders. Holy Cross has an unblemished 5-0 record when hosting the Black Bears as the three losses have come either on the road or in a neutral territory.  

HOLY CROSS AGAINST THE AMERICA EAST CONFERENCE: Holy Cross has played against seven of the nine teams that compete in the America East Conference. This season, Holy Cross will play two America East teams, Maine and New Hampshire. The Crusaders faced New Hampshire on Nov. 23, winning 78-67. Combined, Holy Cross has registered an all-time 22-10 record against Maine and New Hampshire. Against the other seven conference teams, the Crusaders have notched 31 wins and 14 losses throughout program history. New Hampshire has been the most frequent America East opponent for Holy Cross as they have played in 20 total match-ups against the Wildcats, earning 13 victories. The Crusaders boast winning percentages against Albany (2-1), Boston University (9-2), Hartford (3-3), and Maryland-Baltimore County (1-0) while posting a losing percentage with Vermont (6-8). The squad has never faced Binghamton or Stony Brook.

ALL-AROUND AMY: Sophomore starting forward Amy Lepley (Norfolk, Mass.) proved that she can indeed play in full strength as she has already recorded two double-doubles this season, an 18-point, 11-rebound outing against Yale and a 13-point, 12-rebound effort in the team's first win against Quinnipiac. Her 12 rebounds against Quinnipiac were a career-high while her 17 field goal attempts against Yale were also a career-best. She tied her career-high with nine made field-goals against the Bulldogs as well. Against New Hampshire, Lepley combined for 11 points and nine rebounds while also leading the squad with seven assists. Lepley also led the squad with three steals while scoring six points and bringing down six rebounds against Harvard. Most recently, she tied her career-highs with five free throws made in six attempts as she put up 13 points (her fourth double-digit outing of the season) and a team-high three steals in the overtime loss to Central Connecticut. She has now led the team in rebounding in four out of the seven games. She has also led the team in points once (against Yale), in steals three times and in assists three times. Currently, she averages a team-leading 6.9 rebounds and 10.0 points per game (third on the team). She also ranks fourth in assists and steals, seventh in rebounds and 15th in scoring amongst Patriot league leaders. She has also played in an average of 28.6 minutes per game, is shooting .400 from the floor (28-for-70) and has a team-high 25 assists. Lepley was named to the Patriot League All-Rookie team last season after playing a full season of basketball for the first time since her junior year in high school, averaging 23.7 minutes, 6.7 points and 4.0 rebounds per game. Lepley also claimed six Patriot League Rookie of the Week awards and recorded a team-best two double-doubles. The Massachusetts native also finished the season with a 44.2 field goal percentage, a team-high, and led the team in rebounding in four contests, including a season-high 10 rebounds twice.

SMOOTH SMITH: Freshman Alex Smith (Delran, N.J.) has settled in to her role as a starting guard for the Crusaders. Smith has now either led or tied for the team lead in points in two out of the seven games played thus far. Smith, who has started in all contests, is averaging 10.3 points-per-game, second highest on the team. She led the squad with 12 points against Connecticut and put up a season-best 16 points against New Hampshire, tying for the team-high. She notched 14 points on 5-for-8 shooting in the win against Harvard, making four of her six three-point shots as well. Smith most recently topped her season-high with five three-point shots dropped in 10 attempts during the overtime game against Central Connecticut, finishing with 15 points. She has taken the reigns as the squad's top three-point shooter, sinking 19 treys on 51 tries (37.3 percent) so far this season. Smith ranks first amongst league leaders in three-pointers made per game (2.7), seventh in three-point field goal percentage and 14th in scoring average. She is also within the top-10 in assists (10th), steals (sixth) and minutes played (fifth). In those categories, Smith is averaging 2.4 assists, 1.5 steals and 31.6 minutes.

FREMEAU BREAKS LOOSE: Senior forward Whitney Fremeau (Manchester, N.H.) opened up the season with 13 points against Yale and seven scores against Connecticut and then broke through for the Crusaders as she poured in a career-high 20 points in the team's 72-60 win over Quinnipiac on Nov. 17. Fremeau finished the game making seven of her 17 field goal attempts, both season-highs, as 15 of her points were posted in the second half as well. Her 20 points bested her previous career-high of 18 points, which she collected four times over her career. She followed that performance with two points and five rebounds against Fordham and then made her way back to the top in the win against New Hampshire, sinking seven of her 13 field goals to tie the team-high with 16 points while adding five boards. She notched her fourth double-digit scoring affair of the season with a 15-point performance in the win over Harvard, making six of her 12 field goal attempts and followed with nine points, six rebounds and three assists the last time out against Central Connecticut. Currently, Fremeau averages a team-best 11.7 points per game, which ranks seventh amongst Patriot League individuals. Fremeau also averages 30.6 minutes per game and is shooting 37.0 percent from the floor (34-for-92), as she leads the team in both field goals made and field goals attempted. She collected seven assists against Yale in the season opener, one shy of her career-high set against Bucknell on Jan. 16, 2010 and tops league performers with a 1.5 assist/turnover ratio.

THE FROSH IMPACT: Through the seven games played so far this season, the five-member freshman class is showing why head coach Bill Gibbons has so much faith in their immediate impact on the program. So far, the newcomers have scored 184 of the team's 431 total points, are bringing down 96 rebounds and have 30 assists and 30 steals. Smith is second on the squad with 11 steals and is first with a team-best 221 minutes played. Christine Ganser (Needham, Mass.) ranks second on the team with 39 rebounds as well.

WILLFUL WARD: Junior Meredith Ward (Westerly, R.I.), who began the season as the team's sixth-man off the bench, moved in to the starting role at guard against New Hampshire on Nov. 23. In her second consecutive start against Harvard, Ward broke out for a career-best 17-point outing sinking seven of her 11 field goal attempts. Her seven field goals made were also a career-high as she also posted six assists, a season-best. Ward has consistently shown the fire and intensity the team needed in the point guard role as she now has four-consecutive outings of double-digit scoring. She brought the team the force it needed to beat Quinnipiac on Nov. 17 as she broke through for her first double-digit performance, a 14-point effort that included a career-high 12-for-12 free throw shooting endeavor. Ward also showed her aggressive defensive side, pounding the boards for a career-best six rebounds. She tallied 12 of her points and four of her rebounds in the second half, boosting her team to the 12-point victory. Ward followed with a team-high 10-point effort against Fordham, collecting season-highs with five field goals made in eight attempts. She tallied 11-points on 2-for-6 shooting against New Hampshire, also sinking seven of her eight free throws. After making all three of her free throws against Harvard, Ward brings her season total to 21 free throws made in 23 tried. She leads all Patriot League players with a 95.7 percent free throw percentage. After her two-point outing against Central Connecticut, Ward now averages 8.0 points, 3.0 rebounds and 23.4 minutes played.

LOOKS CAN BE DECEIVING: With no player on the roster listed taller than 6-1, the Holy Cross women's basketball team knew that height may be a challenge in terms of team defense. However, the Crusaders showed that height has not been an issue in four of the seven games played thus far.  They pounded Yale on the boards in the first game of the season, collecting 40 rebounds next to the Bulldogs' 28 and then picked up a 51-45 rebounding edge against Quinnipiac, who had four of its five starters listed over 5-8. Its 51 rebounds were a team-high so far this season. Holy Cross also topped Harvard with a 44-34 rebound advantage and then out-rebounded Central Connecticut 45-41. To date, the team has 261 rebounds, including 89 offensive and 172 defensive boards. Lepley leads with 48 rebounds (37 defensive) while the team as a whole has 29 rebounds. Opponents have tallied 280 rebounds, including 103 offensive and 177 defensive. The squad has been out-rebounded by Connecticut, Fordham and New Hampshire. Senior Alyssa May (Oradell, N.J.) tallied nine rebounds in the Harvard win, collecting a season and team-high and leads the team with 14 offensive rebounds.

GOOD GRABS BY GANSER: Freshman Christine Ganser is emerging as a great force underneath the basket for the Crusaders this season as she led the squad in rebounds against Fordham, pounding the boards for eight grabs. She followed that performance with eight more rebounds against New Hampshire, one shy of the team high. Eight seems to be her lucky number as she tallied eight additional rebounds in the win over Harvard. Against Central Connecticut, Ganser brought down five rebounds and tallied a season-best 10 points, which included seven points in the paint and her first career three-point shot. She was the third Crusader to finish in double-digits that game as well. Because of her defensive efforts, Ganser now ranks second on the team with 39 total rebounds. She has also made her way up on the list of Patriot League bests, as she ranks 10th in rebounding average (5.7) and 10th in defensive rebounds (4.4 per-game).

STANDOUT PERFORMANCES: So far this season, a number of Holy Cross player's performances have been at the top of the league's individual player game highs. Lepley's nine field goals made against Yale rank first, as does Meredith Ward's 12-for-12 free throw performance against Quinnipiac. Smith has tallied a number of top league performances as her five three-point field goals made against CCSU are tied for first and her 11 three-point attempts against Connecticut are a game high. She has also tallied the second-highest number of steals (five against New Hampshire). Fremeau and Lepley's seven assists, against Yale and New Hampshire respectively, are also second-highest.

CRUSADERS PICKED FIFTH IN PRESEASON POLL: Holy Cross was picked to finish fifth in the 2010-2011 Patriot League preseason poll, receiving 42 votes. American was chosen to finish first, receiving nine first-place votes as senior forward Michelle Kirk was also voted Preseason Player of the Year. The Eagles earned a league-high 93 points and was followed closely behind by reigning Patriot League Champion, Lehigh, who received seven first place votes and 91 points. Navy was picked third with 70 points, while Army (59 points) and Holy Cross (42) were selected fourth and fifth respectively. Colgate and Lafayette tied for sixth place with 40 votes and Bucknell wrapped up the standings in eighth place with 31 points.

FREMEAU, MAYANDWARD NAMED 2010-2011 TEAMCAPTAINS: Fremeau, May and Ward were named captains for the 2010-2011 season. Fremeau topped the team in rebounding last year, ranking 10th in the league as well with an average of 5.4 rebounds per game. She is also a threat not only on defense but on offense as well as she also posted a 12.3 scoring average, ranking seventh amongst league individuals and third on the team last season. She was named to the second team All-Patriot League for her efforts. May is the veteran starting in the backcourt, as she returns as the team's best defensive player. As a junior, she averaged 22.1 minutes, 3.8 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. Her 4.1 rebound average was second highest on the team. Ward is also listed among the veterans in the backcourt, as she moves from the point guard position to the shooting guard in her junior season. Ward saw action in all 31 games last season, averaging 26.8 minutes, 5.3 points and 1.8 rebounds per game. She ranked second on the team and ninth in the Patriot League with 72 assists, averaging 2.3 assists per game. Combined, the three scored 661 out of the 899 points posted by the team's returning letterwinners. They also pulled down 348 out of the 502 rebounds collected by this year's returners. Through the first seven games of action, the captains have put up 166 points, 80 rebounds and 47 assists.

WELCOME TO WORCESTER: There are two new faces handling front office duties for the 2010-2011 Crusader basketball squad, assistant coaches Chante Bonds and Kristin Drabyn. Bonds spent the last three seasons as an assistant coach for the Fairleigh Dickinson University women's basketball team. In addition to her assistant coaching responsibilities at FDU, Bonds scheduled the team's travel arrangements, worked with the strength and conditioning program and recruited on the east coast and Canada. She was a four-year letter winner on the Bentley women's basketball team, graduating in 2005 with a bachelor's degree in Informational Design and Corporate Communication. Drabyn spent the previous two seasons as a graduate assistant coach for the women's basketball team at Texas Tech. While at Texas Tech, Drabyn assisted in the everyday operations of the women's basketball program, including serving as the video coordinator. Drabyn was also a four-year member of the University of Maryland Baltimore County women's basketball team. She graduated as the school's all-time record holder in free throw percentage (90%) and in made three pointers (169). She co-captained the squad as a senior and was an All-Conference selection in 2008. In 2007, UMBC was the America East Tournament champions, earning a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Drabyn was also named the America East Sportsmanship winner in 2007. A 2008 graduate of UMBC with a bachelor's degree in Broadcast Communications and Exercise Physiology, Drabyn earned her Master's degree in Sports Management from Texas Tech in 2010.

RETURNING TO GLORY: The 2010-2011 season is the first instance under Gibbons' tutelage that a player on the roster has not participated in the NCAA Tournament. The last time a Holy Cross team made the NCAA Tournament was at the end of the 2006-2007 season. Holy Cross has played in the Big Dance 12 times, posting a 1-12 all-time record. It received a team-best seventh seeding in 1985 and played as the 16th seed in its last appearance, 2007. The Crusaders have also participated in the WNIT, playing in the 2002 season.

PATRIOT LEAGUE DOMINANCE: Despite its preseason ranking, the Holy Cross women's basketball team has its eyes set back on the top spot amongst the Patriot League's eight teams. Since its inaugural season back in 1991, the team has posted 237 league victories and just 63 losses. It has made 20 appearances in the Patriot League Tournament, boasting 11 championships and a 38-9 all-time record. The team was seeded fifth in the tournament last season, a program low, but proved that it could not be counted out, topping Army, 57-53 in the quarterfinal round before falling to the 2010 champion, Lehigh, in the semifinals. The Crusaders are most successful against Colgate as they have mounted a 41-3 all-time record against the Raiders. The team also boasts a 43-8 record against Lafayette. Army and American have given Holy Cross the most trouble, as the two have combined for 24 of the 63 wins against the Crusaders. Lehigh has put up 11 wins against Holy Cross as well.

RENEWING OLD RIVALRIES: Fordham, a former Patriot League foe, Massachusetts, an in-state rival, and Quinnipiac reenter the Crusaders' slate this season. The Crusaders and Rams have played in a total 38 contests, dating back to the 1983 season. Holy Cross holds the 31-7 all-time edge over Fordham, falling to the Rams on Nov. 20. Massachusetts and Holy Cross have faced off 16 times in program history and will vie for the lead in the all-time series as it is tied at 8-8. The Minutewomen own a three game win-streak against Holy Cross, however, winning the last meeting 77-46 in 2007.

ANDSTARTING NEWONES: Holy Cross will also face two brand new opponents this season, East Tennessee State and North Carolina A&T. The Crusaders will play these two teams in its only tournament of the season, the Marriott Cavalier Classic, hosted by Virginia. The two teams will definitely present a challenge for Holy Cross, as ETSU boasted an overall record of 23-9 last season and an 18-2 Atlantic Sun record. North Carolina A&T went 23-11 overall, but was also dominant in their Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, finishing with a 14-2 league record.

HEAD COACH BILLGIBBONS: 26th SEASON: Bill Gibbons is in his 26th season at the helm of the Holy Cross women's basketball program and 30th as a member of the Holy Cross basketball family in 2010-2011. He has compiled a 479-249 record as head coach, ranking 28th on the active Division I win leaders list. Most recently, Gibbons earned his first career victory over Quinnipiac, a 72-60 win on Nov. 17. His quarter-century pledge to the team has made a major impact on all aspects of the women's basketball world and especially in the surrounding community. On April 30, 2009, Gibbons received the prestigious Paul N. Johnson Award, given to a member of the Worcester community who has greatly contributed to Worcester area basketball. With his service, the name Gibbons has become a fixture in the realm of women's basketball. He has led the Crusaders to nine Patriot League Championships in the last 15 years. He has also made 12 postseason appearances (11 NCAA Tournaments and one WNIT) in his 24 years as head coach. With sixteen 20-win seasons under his belt, Gibbons has cemented himself and the women's basketball program as one of the best in the East. The sixth coach of the women's program at Holy Cross, Gibbons has enjoyed the longest tenure in the position. He has led the Holy Cross women's basketball program to more victories than any other coach, and is the winningest coach in Holy Cross Basketball history. With his 358th victory, he surpassed George Blaney (357 wins as head coach of the Holy Cross men's basketball program), who had hired him to be his assistant coach in 1981. Now with more than 450 wins under his belt, Gibbons is the second-winningest coach in Holy Cross Athletics history, behind legendary baseball coach Jack Barry, who totaled 616 wins from 1921-1960.

NEXTUP FOR THE CRUSADERS: Holy Cross completes its five-game home stand with a bout against Boston College. The contest, played on Wednesday, Dec. 8, will be the 33rd meeting between the Crusaders and Eagles. The currently undefeated Boston College squad will come to Worcester for the 7:00 p.m. game after playing at UMass on Saturday, Dec. 5.

Record: 1-5 Affiliation: AmericaEast

HEAD COACH: Cindy Blodgett is in her fifth season at the helm of the Maine women's basketball program. In all, she has coached her squad to 21 wins and 74 losses. She was a former stand-out Maine basketball player and was drafted to the WNBA in 1998 where she played for four seasons. She returned to coach the Black Bears in 2007.

2010-2011 SQUAD: The Black Bears stand at 1-5 so far this year, losing to Harvard in the season opener (73-54) and then topping Bryant (74-66) before falling in the last four games to Central Connecticut (62-57), Navy (65-43), South Alabama (66-55) and Kansas (126-63). Junior forward Samantha Wheeler leads the team with 12.8 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, while hitting 37.3 percent (19 of 51) of her field goals and 80.6 percent (25 of 31) of her free throw attempts. Freshman guard Amber Smith has averaged 12.7 points and 3.2 rebounds per game, while senior Tanna Ross has added 7.0 points and 1.3 rebounds per contest. Maine is coming off a 2009-2010 season in which it posted an overall record of 8-21 and going 4-9 in America East contests.