Special to GoHolyCross.com
The 2010 Holy Cross field hockey season begins with a brand new pair of coaches leading the way. This year's Crusaders will be coached by Zowie Tucker and her assistant, Katie White. Tucker joins the Holy Cross community after spending nine seasons on the coaching staff at Northeastern University, including four years as the associate head coach. She worked extensively with the team's defensive unit and goalies during her time with the Huskies, as the team posted a 120-74 record with 52 shutouts over her nine years. White spent the last three seasons as an assistant coach at Albany and was a standout player at the field hockey powerhouse, New Hampshire.
Tucker starts her first stint as a head coach with a positive view on what Holy Cross has to offer and how she can begin building her own successful field hockey program. "Holy Cross has everything I want, including the location, the community and small environment, an emphasis on academics but also the commitment to Division I athletics and the Patriot League," says Tucker. "The tradition of this program and the foundation that (former head coach) Meg (Galligan) has set here is extremely attractive and I expect to bring us back to a top tier team in New England."
Tucker's first team will feature 14 returning letterwinners, including six starters, as well as six newcomers. "The core we have of returning players will be a major factor in how we compete against our opponents this season," continues Tucker. "I think the leadership we have right now lies within our seniors, including Kara Gonnerman (St. Louis, Mo.), Alanna Sikorski (Glen Gardner, N.J.) and Breezy Rush (Denville, N.J.). I know that they understand that we are here to run a disciplined, structured program that will prepare us to compete on the field and win games."
Gonnerman, Sikorski and Rush all return as starters, seeing action in every game last season. Gonnerman finished her junior campaign with two goals and two assists for six points while Sikorski finished second on the team with five goals and two assists for 12 points. Rush led the team defensively, tallying six defensive saves and earning the team's Most Improved Award.
Tucker is also excited for the junior class which features Jamie Caniglia (Wayne, Pa.), Amanda McGavick (Sudbury, Mass.), Rachael Miers (Langhorne, Pa.), Sofia Spanos (Laconia, N.H.) and Kirsten Walther (Landenberg, Pa.). "This is a good group of midfielders and backs who I think will do very well in their respective positions," says Tucker. Miers tied for third on the team in points (7) last season while Caniglia followed closely behind with two goals and two assists for six points. Walther returns to the defensive side, finishing out the 2009 season with 14 consecutive starts and recording 17 tackles and 20 interceptions. McGavick and Spanos combined for 18 appearances last season and look to continue their impact.
The team's lone goalie, sophomore Kelly Sotsky (Wayne, N.J.), returns as the team's go-to player in the cage after missing most of last season due to injury. "It will be great to see how Kelly is doing after returning to play over the summer," continues Tucker. "I have seen some good things from her and expect her to have a solid season."
Tucker is looking forward to the number of defensive players that were added in with the incoming class as well. Freshmen Jillian Caffrey (Yorktown Heights, N.Y.), Kelly Burke (Walpole, Mass.), Lindsay MacPhail (Goffstown, N.H.) and Jess Dodakian (Shrewsbury, Mass.) are all expected to make impacts on defense, which Tucker views as "the emphasis we want to put forth on this team." "Defense is toughness and you have to be relentless. If we have that mindset we will be able to create a lot of counterattack and it is something will definitely focus on."
While Tucker has not had the chance to see every player demonstrate their ability, as full team practices began on Aug. 18, she views the 2010 schedule as a way to display her coaching experience and hopes to use that experience as a tool that will help the team learn the ins and outs of the top teams listed on the fall slate. "I have had the luxury of watching teams like Boston College and UNH play for many years, so I don't think they'll do anything different when they come to play us," remarks Tucker. "I just want to prepare our kids to expect that level of training and how to play well against it. Playing against these teams will allow us to see where we are as a program."
Games against Harvard (Sept. 4) and Boston College (Sept. 5) open up the 2010 campaign while a Sept. 18 contest against New Hampshire will follow. The team also plays in regional competitions against Siena, Sacred Heart, Fairfield and Dartmouth before opening up Patriot League play at home versus Bucknell on Oct. 2.
"I think taking things one practice at a time, one game at a time, will help us set up for the challenges we face in the year ahead," says Tucker. "We are confident in our preparation and what we can bring to the program and to our players. The biggest thing we want to do is instill confidence in our team and continue to adjust and grow in ways that lead us to success."
Because of the accessibility to great teams all throughout New England, Tucker hopes to use the non-conference slate as a way to achieve her goals for this year's squad and the program in general. "The school's that surround us are very competitive and will help us prepare for postseason and Patriot League play," Tucker believes. "Anybody within 40 minutes present a challenge for us and a tool to be used when it comes to play in the conference. Our expectations for league play are to be a competitor for the championship. The teams in the Patriot League have all proved to be competitive and in the top 30-35 in country and we want to get to that place as well."
The month of October features contests against the other five Patriot League schools (American, Bucknell, Colgate, Lafayette and Lehigh) with the final game of the regular season held away against Lehigh on Oct. 30. The Patriot League Tournament is set for Nov. 6 and 7, with the top four teams in the final regular season standings earning bids. Holy Cross looks to make the tournament for the first time since 2006 and finish the goal that Tucker looks to accomplish.