By Jim Wrobel
Special to GoHolyCross.com
The 2010 Holy Cross women's lacrosse team returns 21 letterwinners, including nine out of 12 starters and its top six point producers, as it will be looking to win its third Patriot League championship in the last five years. The Crusaders also welcome six freshmen to the program. Holy Cross (5-11, 3-3 Patriot League in 2009), which missed the Patriot League Tournament by one game last season, has a veteran group of players who have seen a lot of game action and are ready to make a run at another Patriot League title. Also, with the Crusaders opening a brand new field, there is a lot of excitement surrounding the program for the 2010 season.
The new Holy Cross Field is a synthetic turf facility which is the home of both Crusader lacrosse teams. The all-weather, state-of-the-art field - complete with lights, a lacrosse specific scoreboard, a press box and bleachers - is a field that everyone in the program is very excited about. "It is very exhilarating for the team to have the new field, press box and beautiful scoreboard," said eighth-year head coach and the program's all-time winningest coach Stephanie Ridolfi. "I know the players are very excited. We don't have a home game until our sixth game of the season but all of our practices on the field and playing in other teams' stadiums are going to get them even more excited when we finally have our first home game. The seniors are super excited because they will be able to play on the new field before they graduate."
Ridolfi also sees the size of the field as a positive for the team. "The field is big which is a benefit to play on because it is easier to adapt to playing on a small field on the road then it is to playing on a bigger field on the road," said Ridolfi. "So when we go on the road and play a team on a big field we will be ready because we will be used to it."
With an experienced team including nine starters returning, Ridolfi expects them to take what they have learned the last couple of seasons and create a winning atmosphere. "I think last season's experience helped tremendously because we went through a lot of games that we had in our hands and lost by one goal," said Ridolfi. "The team saw all types of different games and situations last year. The nine starters are looking to come back and not let the team lose those close games and become a more consistent winning team."
Holy Cross also returns its six top point scorers from a season ago as the offense will be expected to be very strong. "When the offensive players work together really well they do some great things," said Ridolfi. "I think one of the biggest things we will see is who will become the leader. I think all of them work great as a team which is important to continue. If a couple of our senior offensive players can truly emerge as leaders, that will help our offensive output."
Last year's team played in six games that were decided by one goal, as the Crusaders went 2-4 in those games with both victories coming in overtime. Ridolfi believes that those games will be beneficial to this year's team. "I think the one-goal wins show that the team is fully capable of winning those nitty gritty games," said Ridolfi. "What I think the team took away from those losses is that every player needs to step up mentally and physically. In a lot of those games we had leads. The team was frustrated and angry with those one-goal losses which is a good thing."
The theme that Ridolfi has been stressing this season is ‘right here, right now.' "The team is trying to take it one practice at a time," said Ridolfi. "The players are trying not to look too far in advance. They are very excited about the season opener at UMass but they know we won't be successful unless we focus on the practices leading up to the start of the season. I think the team is doing a real good job of that."
The Crusaders will be led by senior co-captains MaryKate Finnegan and Megan Fenton. "The advantage of having those two as captains is MaryKate is on the defensive side and Megan is on the offensive side," said Ridolfi. "I think that is a huge advantage to have a captain on each end of the field. I think MaryKate is a perfect player to lead the young group of defenders that we have. Megan is really stepping up as a leader and you can just tell that she is really focused which I think will really help our offensive team."
The seven members of the senior class - Ali Baird, Allison Donovan, Fenton, Finnegan, Katie Gardner, Laurie Noreika and Katie Riddle - were a part of the Crusaders' 2007 Patriot League championship team and would love to end their careers with another title. "This group has seen success and also some tough seasons," said Ridolfi. "Last year they saw the team miss the Patriot League Tournament by one game so this season they don't want to have it come down to one game. They want to create a more successful environment this year. I think they have done great in making sure all of the underclassmen are involved."
Juniors Annie Boylan, Alex Corrado, Katelyn Gettens, Amy Martin, Mary Milley, Rachel Murray, Meg O'Leary, Cassie Rudden and Meredith Stevens will be looking to become leaders as they are a year away from being seniors. Sophomores Kayla DiBari, Catherine Furman, Caitie Shea, Kat Sutton and Cami Thompson, who each traveled to England and Ireland with American International Sports Tours last summer and gained great playing experience, will look to build on their freshman seasons.
Holy Cross welcomes freshmen Maddie Carrellas, Sara Cox, Sarah Daly, Tina Marino, Caroline Pedlow and Taylor Zebrowski. "We are impressed with the freshmen," said Ridolfi. "We are expecting to get some quality minutes from them which will help push the upperclassmen. We have good team depth because of the freshmen, which will help us tremendously."
A big strength of the team this year will be speed. "We are focused on utilizing our speed," said Ridolfi. "When we won the two Patriot League championships we had real good speed. And we are looking to go back to that and take advantage of our speed. We want to use our speed in every aspect on the field."
At attack the Crusaders have a veteran group led by seniors Gardner, Fenton and Baird. Gardner returns for her senior year after having a tremendous junior season as she is expected to once again be an offensive force. Last year, she led the team with a career-best 50 points and a career-best 25 assists, while she was tied for the team-lead with a career-best 25 goals. Also her 25 assists were the third most ever for a single-season at Holy Cross. Gardner, who's 1.56 assists per game last season ranked second in the Patriot League and her 3.12 points per game were sixth, enters the season fifth all-time at Holy Cross with 37 career assists and her 85 points are the most by any current Crusader.
Also a big factor on attack will be Fenton who last season tied for first on the team with 25 goals and was third with 32 points, while her seven assists were fifth. She has had a strong career as her 66 goals are the most by any Crusader on the current team and she enters the season 10th on Holy Cross' all-time career draw controls list with 62.
Baird ranked fourth on the team a year ago with a career-best 26 points and a career-best nine assists, while she was fifth with a career-best 17 goals. She is expected to have a strong senior season and contribute to what should be an impressive offensive output by Holy Cross.
At midfield the Crusaders return O'Leary who earned second team All-Patriot League honors last season. Last year, she tied for the team-lead with a career-best 25 goals, while she was second with a career-best 14 assists and a career-best 39 points. O'Leary will be joined by fellow junior Boylan who is very important to the team in securing draw controls which can have a major positive impact on a game. She enters the season fifth all-time at Holy Cross with 74 career draw controls. She is also expected to provide offense as last season she ranked third on the team with a career-best 10 assists, while she also recorded six goals and a career-best 16 points.
Sutton, who was named the Patriot League Rookie of the Week twice last year, is expected to continue where she left off and be a major offensive force. A season ago she ranked fourth on the team with 20 goals and was fifth with 24 points, while she also had four assists. Sutton is also a very aggressive player which was demonstrated by her being second on the team with 25 draw controls.
On defense the Crusaders will be led by Finnegan, who for the second straight season is a team captain. She has been a fixture on defense for Holy Cross as she has played 35 career games with 32 straight starts, and has recorded 46 ground balls, 14 draw controls and 26 caused turnovers. Last season, she tied for the team-lead with a career-best 17 caused turnovers which tied for 10th on the Holy Cross all-time single-season list. Finnegan also picked up a career-best 24 ground balls last season which tied for third on the team.
Riddle returns on defense after playing 14 games last year with 11 starts, while senior Noreika also returns to bolster the defense.
Martin, who has been the starter in goal from the beginning of her career at Holy Cross, will look to continue to anchor the Crusader defense as a junior. Last year, she led the Patriot League with 10.20 saves per game, while she ranked second on the team with 25 ground balls. She also enters the season sixth all-time at Holy Cross with 308 career saves. Donovan, who stopped a career-best eight shots against Boston College last season, will also contribute to the Holy Cross defense in goal.
Holy Cross is scheduled to play 17 regular season games, including eight at home at the new Holy Cross Field. The Crusaders will play three teams that qualified for the 2009 NCAA Tournament (Massachusetts, Fairfield and Colgate).
Holy Cross will start the season with five straight games on the road including the season-opener against UMass on Feb. 17. The Crusaders will then play at New Hampshire (Feb. 24) and at Yale (Feb. 27). Holy Cross will next travel to Denver to play a neutral site contest versus Mount St. Mary's (March 3), while it will play at Denver (March 6).
The Crusaders will start their home season with games versus Vermont (March 13) and Boston College (March 17), while they will open the Patriot League season at defending champion Colgate (March 20). Holy Cross will then play a home game with UConn (March 24) and an away game with Navy (March 27).
Holy Cross will return home to play games versus Bucknell (April 3) and Fairfield (April 6), before going back on the road to meet Lehigh (April 10) and Harvard (April 14). The Crusaders will conclude the regular season with three straight home games versus Lafayette (April 17), Central Connecticut (April 21) and American (April 24).
The Patriot League Tournament will take place on April 30 and May 2, on the campus of the regular season champion. The top four teams in the final regular season standings will qualify for the tournament.