By Jim Sarkisian
Special to GoHolyCross.com
Coming off its second straight Patriot League Championship game appearance, the 2013-2014 Holy Cross women's basketball team looks to get over the hump to claim its 12th Patriot League Championship and a trip to the NCAA Tournament this season. With an 18-14 overall record and an 8-6 mark in the conference a season ago, this year's team returns 11 letterwinners and four starters, while welcoming a pair of freshmen. The mix of experience and young talent will allow the Crusaders to remain a contender in the league this season.
Voted to finish fourth in the Patriot League preseason poll, Holy Cross will look to remain one of the top scoring teams in the conference. In 2012-2013, the Crusaders led the Patriot League in scoring offense (59.9 PPG), field goal percentage (.414 FG%) and assists (15.5 APG), while ranking second in three-point percentage (.332 3P%) and three-pointers made per game (5.7 3PM). If Holy Cross can improve on its league-worst 61.5 points allowed per game in 2012-2013, the Crusaders will be a strong candidate to claim the Patriot League crown.
The Crusaders depth in the frontcourt will be a strength to this year's squad, with all of the players having different roles. The frontcourt this season will be led by senior co-captain Christine Ganser who averaged 7.0 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game in 2012-2013. The versatility of Ganser to play multiple positions on the floor and her ability to shoot the three-ball will allow the Crusaders to have multiple lineups based on their opponents.
Returning healthy this season will be junior forward Emily Parker who was named to the 2011-2012 Patriot League All-Rookie team. Battling injuries last year, the 6-3 Parker averaged 5.7 points and 4.1 boards per game. Rotating with Parker at the five spot will be sophomore center Molly Hourigan who started 14 of Holy Cross' final 15 games and played well in the paint for the Crusaders down the stretch. Over the final 15 games, the 6-4 Hourigan averaged 5.0 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game.
Also returning will be sophomore forward Raquel Scott who led the 2012-2013 squad with 169 rebounds. In last year's Patriot League Tournament, Scott led the conference with 32 total rebounds and ranked second with 10.7 rebounds per contest. Last season, she appeared in all 32 contests and averaged 4.3 points and 5.3 caroms per game. Junior forward Clare Sullivan will also provide added depth to the frontcourt as she played in 28 games a season ago and averaged 2.4 points and 1.0 rebounds per game.
Freshmen Jenn Dynis and Madelyn Ganser will add versatility to the Crusaders, as both can play the three or four spot on the floor. The duo will compete for playing time right away with the graduation of 2012-2013 All-Patriot League second teamer Amy Lepley.
The Crusader backcourt, led by seniors Alex Smith and Brisje Malone, will look to continue to be the driving force this season for Holy Cross. A two-time member of the first team All-Patriot League and co-captain, Smith will lead the offensive output for Holy Cross. Coming off a campaign where she led the Patriot League with 14.5 points and 2.9 three-pointers made per game, the 1,000-point scorer will be the quarterback of the offense at the point guard position. Smith also put up 4.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists last season for Holy Cross.
Malone will look to build on her strong junior season where she led the Patriot League with 5.0 assists per game. In addition to her assists, she also recorded 9.4 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals per contest and earned the team's unsung hero award in 2012-2013.
Fourth-year guard Kelly Hamner will look to finish off her senior season on a strong note. She returns healthy this year and will give the Crusaders a spark on the defensive side of the ball with her athleticism and energy.
Sophomores Lisa Mifsud and Kate Gillespie both come back to this year's team stronger and better adapted to the college game. Mifsud played in 30 contests as a freshman and averaged 2.2 points per game and will give the Crusaders depth on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Gillespie will look to improve as a second-year player, providing the Crusaders with a guard that can shoot the three-pointer and also drive the ball into the lane. Sophomore Jenn Walsh will also add depth to the backcourt this season.
Holy Cross will play a challenging and competitive 11-game non-conference schedule to begin the season. The non-conference slate includes four teams who had winning records in 2012-2013 and a pair of schools who competed in the NCAA Tournament. The Crusaders will begin the 2013-2014 campaign at home versus Dartmouth on Friday, Nov. 8 at 7:00 p.m.
After playing six of their first eight contests of the season at home, Holy Cross will travel to Ames, Iowa, on December 28-29 to compete in the Cyclone Classic hosted by Iowa State. The two-day event will kick off with the Crusaders versus the Cyclones on Dec. 28 followed by a contest either against Saint Louis or William & Mary.
Holy Cross will then begin its 2013-2014 Patriot League slate against new conference member Boston University on Jan. 2. The new 10-team Patriot League will include BU and Loyola (Md.) as well three other teams with winning records. The Crusaders take on three-time defending Patriot League champion, Navy, on Jan. 25 at home and also on Feb. 22 in Annapolis, Md.