Nov. 8, 2007
By Michelle Bradley
Special to GoHolyCross.com
The Holy Cross women's basketball team heads into the 2007-2008 season looking to defend its place as a top contender in the Patriot League and its 2007 Patriot League Championship title. After clinching the league title, the Crusaders fell to Duke in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, 81-44, ending the season that marked the 11th Patriot League Championship for the Crusaders in 17 seasons. With the return of senior guard Laura Aloisi to the court as well as several returning underclassmen, Holy Cross will be a force hard to slow down.
The Crusaders are coming off a 15-18 overall record, finishing third at 7-7 in the Patriot League. In addition to last season's success, the Crusaders picked up their seventh league title in 10 years. Holy Cross finished first in the league in two categories: assists (14.36 per game) and free throw percentage (.741). The Crusaders were also ranked fourth in four different categories including scoring offense (57.8 per game), field goal percentage (.400), three-point field goal percentage (.317), and assist/turnover ratio (+0.76).
McLaughlin started in 32 games last season, tallying 177 points, 151 rebounds, 61 assists, 38 steals and five blocks. McLaughlin was ranked 15th in the Patriot League in defensive rebounds with 33, averaging 3.06 rebounds per game. In the season opener against Yale, McLaughlin tied in most rebounds during the game with six. On the road against Rhode Island, she had five rebounds, tying her first on the team, while recording seven points and two assists.
McLaughlin started in 13 of the 14 Patriot League games last season, averaging 30.4 minutes played, 5.2 rebounds, 6.6 points, 1.1 steals and 2.2 assists per contest. She had a season-high 13 points versus Bucknell, also chipping in eight rebounds and three assists. McLaughlin tallied a team-high eight rebounds versus Navy, also chipping in three points and two assists. In the Patriot League quarterfinals against Lafayette, she tied for first in rebounds with seven and added three assists.
Gruzynski will also be back with the Crusaders, closing out a season in which she made 32 appearances on the court. During her sophomore season, Gruzynski played 369 minutes, scored 81 points, and tallied 77 rebounds, 10 assists, four blocks and 12 steals. Her season averages included 11.5 minutes played, 2.5 points and 2.4 rebounds per game. In last year's home opener, Gruzynski posted nine points and six rebounds.
In the Patriot League, she played in all 14 games, averaging 11.6 minutes of playing time, 1.5 rebounds, 2.6 points, and went 9 for 15 in free throws with a .600 average. In the Crusaders' league opener against Lafayette, she had seven points and seven rebounds. In the final game of the regular season, Gruzynski scored nine points and added four rebounds.
Making 28 appearances last season, junior forward Jessica Merrihue is also returning to contribute to the success of the Holy Cross frontcourt. Her season totals tallied to 128 minutes played, 22 rebounds, five assists, three blocks, two steals and 29 points. Merrihue also recorded a .667 free throw percentage, making six of nine attempts. Throughout the season, she averaged 4.6 minutes played, 0.8 rebounds and 1.0 points per game.
In the Patriot League, Merrihue appeared in 11 games, averaging 3.5 minutes, 0.5 rebounds and 0.6 points per game. Against Lehigh, she contributed two points and a rebound while chipping in four points and one rebound versus Lafayette.
Tayana Carper will return for her second season with Holy Cross after appearing in 28 games last year. On the season, Carper tallied 124 playing minutes, 19 rebounds, two assists, two blocks, six steals and 19 points. She also made six of 10 free throw shots, for a percentage of .600.
"The emergence of Tayana at the four spot and moving Jessica Merrihue to the five spot will add depth to our front court," said Gibbons.
Freshman Elizabeth Campbell will be joining the Crusaders this season as well, playing center.
McFadden appeared in all 33 games last season, making 30 starts, averaging 33.8 minutes, 9.2 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.0 steals per game. She was ranked among the Patriot League leaders in scoring (19th, 9.2 per game), assists (sixth, 2.76), free throw percentage (eighth, .774), three-point field goal percentage (10th, .331) and three-point field goals made (11th, 1.55). She posted a career-best 10 assists against Lehigh in the Patriot League semifinals. McFadden led the team for the year in assists, playing 33 games, making 91 assists resulting in an average of 2.8 assists per game. McFadden also made it onto the top 10 list of three-pointers made, ranking her ninth with 51. Also making school history, she ranks third in minutes played in a single season with 1,115.
Making 30 starts in 32 games last season, O'Dell impacted the success of the women's basketball team on every level. In the Patriot League, O'Dell was ranked in scoring (seventh, 12.4 per game), rebounds (23rd, 3.9 per game), field goal percentage (ninth, .428), assists (10th, 2.38 per game), steals (15th, 1.28 per game), three-point field goal percentage (first, .422) and three-point field goals made (first, 2.72). O'Dell also crushed Holy Cross records for most three-pointers made in a season with 87 and was ranked sixth in three-point percentage recording a .422 percentage. O'Dell's debut season also landed her fifth on the school list minutes played in a season with 1,095. The Patriot League quickly recognized the impact O'Dell was making on Holy Cross and the league, naming her the 2006-2007 Patriot League Rookie of the Year.
Honors for the two returning starters quickly added up courtesy of their young success. McFadden and O'Dell were named to the 2006-2007 All-Patriot League Rookie Team as well each receiving several Rookie of the Week awards with McFadden receiving three and O'Dell receiving six.
Also returning for the Crusaders is senior Laura Aloisi, who played only 10 games last season due to an injury. In her 10 games, Aloisi racked up 110 points, 52 rebounds, 68 assists, 30 steals and one block. Aloisi also went 10 of 31 in three-point field goals with a .323 percentage and 18 of 24 in free throws, marking an impressive .750 percentage. She led the team in points with 20 in the Crusaders' season opener against Yale. On the road against Quinnipiac, Aloisi led the team with seven rebounds while chipping in 14 points and 10 assists. Against Connecticut, Aloisi tied for first in points on the team with 13 while recording five rebounds and seven assists.
During her sophomore year, Aloisi saw action in 29 games, making 25 starts. Aloisi averaged 6.7 points, 4.4 assists, 2.0 steals and 3.0 rebounds per game. She also had a free throw average of .746, making 50 of 67 attempts. In Patriot League action, Alosi averaged 7.0 points, 4.9 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 3.0 steals per game.
The fourth returning guard for Holy Cross is junior Jessica Pearson, who saw action in just eight games last season due to injury. Pearson posted 14 points, three steals, nine assists and 16 rebounds in 93 minutes of playing time.
"Our backcourt is the deepest it has ever been in 23 years," said Gibbons. "Laura and Jessica were playing terrific basketball when they went down with their injuries. They are back at full strength and the experience that our girls received last season was remarkable."
The Crusaders' sophomore Christy Cushnie will also be returning at the guard position after seeing action in 28 games last year. Cushnie posted 63 points, 31 rebounds, 11 steals, 35 assists, two blocks and made 21 of 25 free throw attempts.
"Briana, Bethany and Christy all received a `baptism with fire' last year, but they all responded and met the challenge," said Gibbons.
"When you add talented freshmen like Whitney and Alyssa then we have depth that we believe can play 94 feet and wear down our opponents," said Gibbons.
Holy Cross will play another competitve non-conference schedule this season in preparation for Patriot League play. Included in the Crusades' 2007-2008 season are two tournaments, hosted by Long Island and Florida. Holy Cross will also host 12 home contests, played at the Hart Center.
Among the home games scheduled in Worcester, the Crusaders will face non-conference competition Rhode Island, Buffalo, Quinnipiac and Dartmouth.
Also on the Holy Cross schedule is games on the road against nationally-ranked Boston College and Harvard. The Crimson is only team on the Crusaders' schedule this season also made it to the first round of the NCAA Tournament last year.
"As usual, our non-conference schedule is challenging and pins us against some of the country's best teams," said Gibbons. "We play our traditional New England rivals, highlighted by UConn, BC and Harvard."
As expected, the Patriot League remains highly competitive with Holy Cross hosting seven home conference contests. The Patriot League tournament is scheduled to kick off with the quarterfinals and semifinals played at Army on March 8, and concluding with the Patriot League Championship Game scheduled for March 12.
"The league teams have many returning starters back and I believe that it will be the best and most talented Patriot League in our 18-year history."