November 12, 2008

Women's Basketball Prepares For 2008-2009 Season

Nov. 12, 2008

 

By Michelle Bradley
Special to GoHolyCross.com

 

Printable Season Preview in PDF Format

The Holy Cross women's basketball team heads into the 2008-2009 season looking to return to the top of the Patriot League, after closing out last year with a 57-45 loss to Bucknell in the 2008 Patriot League Championship game at the Hart Center. The Crusaders used strong veteran play and a sharp freshman class to make its 10th consecutive appearance (15th overall) in the Patriot League championship game last year, and will look to continue to build upon the great tradition of Holy Cross women's basketball this season.

Last year's team finished with a 19-13 overall record, finishing second in the Patriot League with a record of 10-4 in league play. The Crusaders led the Patriot League in two categories: three-point field goal percentage (.338) and three-point field goals made (5.75 per game). Holy Cross also finished second in assists (13.19 per game) and in assist/turnover ratio (0.78), as well as third in steals (8.62 per game).

This year's team returns nearly 80 percent of its scoring and rebounding from a year ago, so the Crusaders seem poised for another successful season.

Frontcourt

Senior center Kathy Gruzynski and sophomore forward Elizabeth Campbell will lead the frontcourt for this year's Crusaders.

Making 30 appearances and three starts last year, Gruzynksi emerged in her role as the first Crusader off the bench. She set several career-highs as she played a total of 408 minutes, scored 134 points, 96 rebounds, 18 assists, 13 blocks and 10 steals. Her season averages include 13.6 minutes played, 4.5 points and 3.2 rebounds per game. During league play, she appeared in 12 games and made one start. She averaged 16.0 minutes played, 6.5 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. In her best performance of the season, Gruzynski scored a career-high 20 points and chipped in six rebounds against regular season champion American.

"Kathy came on strong last year and she was a force in our Patriot League games," said Coach Gibbons.

Campbell had an outstanding year in her debut season with Holy Cross, as she was named to the 2007-2008 Patriot League All-Rookie Team. Appearing in 32 games, she made 11 starts, totaling 664 minutes played, 196 points, 135 rebounds, 36 blocks and 28 steals.

Leading the Crusaders in blocks, Campbell ranked fifth in the Patriot League in that category. She also led the league in field goal percentage (.472). In league play, Campbell started in eight of the 13 games she appeared in, averaging 28.8 minutes played, 8.8 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and 1.5 assists per game.

"Elizabeth played at about 70 percent efficency because of a hip injury which required off-season surgery," said Gibbons. "We are looking for even bigger things from her this year."

Also looking to contribute in the front court is junior forward/guard Tayana Carper. Carper had appeared in 23 games last year, earning a spot in the starting lineup in four of them. She tallied 253 minutes played, 80 points, 51 rebounds, 8 blocks and four steals. She also finished the season with a free-throw percentage of .625, after sinking 20 of 32 attempts. Carper's season was highlighted by her career-high 14 points, seven field goals, nine field goal attempts as well as tying her record for blocks (two) and steals (two) against Colgate. In league play, Carper appeared in nine games.

After seeing action in 23 games last year, senior forward and co-captain Jessica Merrihue will also contribute greatly with her veteran experience. Last year, she tallied 142 minutes played, 36 points, 23 rebounds, nine steals and three blocks. She also finished the season with a career-high in field goal percentage of .341, making 15 of 44 attempts and in defensive rebounds with 17. Merrihue also appeared in nine Patriot League games.

Incoming freshman Marygrace Jay will add depth to the center position.

"Jessica Merrihue, Tayana and Marygrace will give us depth in our frontcourt," said Gibbons.

Backcourt

Juniors Briana McFadden and Bethany O'Dell will be the leaders of an experienced and deep Crusader backcourt this year.

Named the 2008 Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year, McFadden's successful career continued to new heights. She also received All-Patriot League First Team and Patriot League All-Tournament honors. McFadden etched her named into the Holy Cross history books as she tied the school record for single-game free throw percentage (1.000, 11-for-11) and consecutive free throws made (11). Starting in all 32 games, McFadden totaled 1,079 minutes played, 431 points, 124 rebounds, 50 assists, 30 steals and 12 blocks. Averaging 13.5 points per game, McFadden led the Crusaders in scoring in 14 games last season, including eight Patriot League games.

McFadden topped the league rankings in free throw percentage (.811), while finishing third in scoring, sixth in three-point field goals made (1.56 per game) and seventh in three-point field goal percentage (.347).
O'Dell also had no problem picking up where she left off after her freshman year, after being named to the All-Patriot League Second Team and Patriot League All-Tournament Team. Starting in all 32 games, O'Dell finished with 1,030 minutes played, 364 points, 146 rebounds, 80 assists, 54 steals and four blocks. She also reached new heights in her career, setting new career bests in rebounds (eight) and steals (six). She also tied her career-highs in field goal attempts (15), assists (seven), free throws made (six), free throws attempted (six) and blocks (one).

O'Dell had success from long range last year, as she ranked third in the Patriot League in three-point field goal percentage (.382) and three-point field goals made (1.97 per game), seventh in scoring (11.4) and in steals (1.69 per game), ninth in field goal percentage (.373) and 10th in assists (2.5).

Junior guard Christy Cushnie also returns for the Crusaders after appearing in 32 games last year, finishing with 308 minutes played, 59 points, 51 rebounds, 17 assists, 12 steals and one block. Cushnie had a career-high five rebounds versus Colgate and tied her career marks in three-point field goal attempts (five), three-point field goals (two), steals (two) and blocks. She also contributed to Holy Cross' success against the league, appearing in all 14 games.

Sophomore guard Alyssa May had a stellar start to her career with the Crusaders, appearing in 31 games and making 14 starts. She finished with 570 minutes played, 107 points, 103 rebounds, 34 assists, 23 steals and seven blocks. May's debut season was highlighted by leading Holy Cross in scoring with 11 points and chipping in seven rebounds in the league championship game versus Bucknell.

Joining the team last year, sophomore guard Whitney Fremeau looks to make a continued impact on the backcourt in the upcoming season. Appearing in 25 games, Fremeau totaled 171 minutes played, 42 points, 20 rebounds, 16 assists, 11 steals and two blocks.

"This year, we will experiment with a four-guard lineup, to take advantage of Alyssa and Whitney's athleticism and versatility," said Gibbons. "They both should be effective in our presses."

Also returning in the backcourt is senior co-captain Jessica Pearson, who made 19 appearances, totaling 137 minutes played, 37 points, 16 assists, 14 rebounds and seven steals a year ago. Last season, she averaged 7.2 minutes played, 1.9 points, 0.7 rebounds and 0.8 assists. Pearson set new career-highs for points in a game (nine) and minutes played (21), as well as tying her current career-best marks in field goals in a game, three-point field goals, free throw attempts and steals.

Incoming freshman Meredith Ward will look to make an impact in her first season with the Crusaders.

"Obviously, Briana and Bethany will be our experienced veterans in the backcourt," said Gibbons. "Christy and Jessica Pearson both have two under their belt to add to our guard depth. Meredith is a competitor who should contribute at the point position."

Schedule

Holy Cross has traditionally played very demanding schedules during the Gibbons era, and this year is no exception.
The 2008-09 road slate includes tournaments hosted by Northwestern and Saint Joseph's (Pa.), as well as trips to Vermont, Rhode Island, Northeastern and Dartmouth. The Crusaders will face their biggest challenge of the year when they head to Storrs, Conn. to play nationally-ranked Connecticut.

The Crusaders will host 13 home games at the Hart Center. The non-league opponents coming to Worcester this year are Yale, archrival Boston College, Harvard, St. Peter's, Maine and Bryant.

"As usual, our non-conference schedule is as tough as anybody's," said Gibbons. "The December road trip, including No. 1 UConn, and the two competitive tournaments, will serve to prepare us for Patriot League play. A Patriot League that will be the strongest from top to bottom than it has been in its 19 year history."

The Patriot League tournament will be played at Lehigh, with the quarterfinals taking place on March 7 and the semifinals on March 8. On March 11, the Patriot League Championship game will be played at the home site of the highest remaining seed.

The Crusaders have reached the Patriot League championship game an unprecedent 15 times in the league's 18-year history, winning the title 11 times. The 2008-2009 season may well be the most competitive in Patriot League history, as the Crusaders try to capture an even dozen championships.