Feb. 15, 2009
By Jim Wrobel
Special to GoHolyCross.com
The 2009 Holy Cross women's lacrosse team returns 23 letterwinners including seven starters to a team that is looking to win its third Patriot League championship in the last four years.
The five seniors of Kaitlyn Curley, Samantha Hallowell, Calley Benoit, Kelly Casey and Lisa Gagne have made a major impact on the program as they were a part of two Patriot League regular season and tournament championships in 2006 and 2007, along with two NCAA Tournament appearances. "The seniors have been on the team through successful seasons and one not as successful season last year with a 5-11 record," said seventh-year head coach Stephanie Ridolfi, the all-time winningest coach in the program's history. "They have a unique viewpoint which helps in their leadership in that they have seen what it takes to be successful. They have already stepped up vocally and have brought the team together. They are determined to end their careers on the highest note that they can."
So far this year the seniors have already demonstrated this type of strong leadership. "The word this year for our team is fight," said Ridolfi. "The seniors really made it their motto because they want to fight back and reach the top again like they did as freshmen and sophomores. The underclassmen can really learn from the seniors' fight and courage."
The Crusaders are very excited to start the season. "Last year was a tough year for the team and they are extremely excited for the start of this season because they feel like that have something to prove," said Ridolfi.
This determination to prove themselves started immediately in the fall season. "I was very pleased with the fall season," said Ridolfi. "The team started off really good right away and progressively got better as the season went on. The players really connected with each other on and off the field and I think that was the most important thing the team took from the fall season."
Curley, Hallowell and junior MaryKate Finnegan will serve as the team's tri-captains this year as they are each strong leaders. "Sam studied abroad in Spain last year and returns to the team with a strong lead by example attitude," said Ridolfi. "MaryKate is a get everyone excited vocal type leader, while Kaitlyn is the leader who makes sure that everyone's questions are answered and that everyone's voices are heard. These three types of leadership are perfect as the combination represents everyone on the team."
One of the keys to success is good team chemistry and Ridolfi is very pleased and impressed with how serious the team takes personal responsibility. "The biggest strength that this team has this year is that all of the players have decided to own up to their own mistakes," said Ridolfi. "They are not passing it on to others. They are not saying that `I didn't do it' or `I didn't do anything wrong.' This attitude is really helping the team to not point fingers and get angry at each other. This is building the great camaraderie on the team because they are owning up to their own mistakes."
Another strength of this year's Crusaders is their strong depth. "Throughout the fall we played a lot of different lineups," said Ridolfi. "This year we have a lot of sophomores and freshmen that can contribute which is great so all of the responsibility does not completely fall with the juniors and seniors which is good in having a well rounded team."
The junior class of Finnegan, Ali Baird, Allison Donovan, Megan Fenton, Katie Gardner, Laurie Noreika and Katie Riddle are ready to become strong leaders. "I think the junior class had great leadership from the upperclassmen so now they are great leaders themselves," said Ridolfi. "As freshmen they were a part of a championship season and as sophomores we were not as successful so as juniors they now have the opportunity to decide which path to take. We have several juniors that are extremely capable of being leaders which will help the seniors and also show the underclassmen how to lead the team to success."
The big sophomore class of Annie Boylan, Alex Corrado, Katelyn Gettens, Maryalice Gill, Amy Martin, Mary Milley, Julie Murphy, Rachel Murray, Meg O'Leary, Cassie Rudden and Meredith Stevens are looking to take what they learned as freshmen and have strong second years. "The sophomore class gained a lot of experience last year and have improved even throughout the fall season," said Ridolfi. "I think the sophomores will be fantastic this year."
Ridolfi is very excited to welcome freshmen Catherine Crowe, Kayla DiBari, Catherine Furman, Caitie Shea, Kat Sutton and Cami Thompson to the program as she is very impressed with what she has seen from them already. "The freshmen are not afraid to step on the field and compete with seniors and juniors," said Ridolfi. "They are not afraid to beat the upperclassmen to balls. They are not intimated which is very important. But they also give the respect to the upper classes that they deserve."
At the attack position the Crusaders return Gardner who had a tremendous sophomore season in which she ranked second on the team in points with 33, as she tied for the lead in assists with 10 and was third in goals with 23. Baird also returns with experience as she has 24 goals and three assists for 27 points in two seasons.
In the midfield, the sophomore duo of O'Leary and Boylan will be expected to be a force offensively as O'Leary recorded 20 goals and six assists for 26 points as a freshman, while Boylan had eight goals and four assists for 12 points. Boylan also led the team in draw controls with 43. Fenton, who missed the majority of last season due to an injury, will be looking to continue the success of her freshman season when she earned first team All-Patriot League accolades as she had 38 goals and seven assists for 45 points. Curley and Hallowell will also be a strong presence in the midfield.
The Crusaders have a lot of experience on defense as they return starters Gagne and Finnegan. Gagne has started in 35 straight games and Finnegan started in all 16 games a season ago.
Martin returns in goal after starting in all 16 games as a freshman and earned Patriot League Goalie of the Week honors once.
Holy Cross is scheduled to play 16 regular season games, including eight at home. The Crusaders will play two teams that qualified for the 2008 NCAA Tournament (New Hampshire and Colgate).
Holy Cross will start the season with three straight home games as it opens against Massachusetts on Feb. 17, while the Crusaders will then play Harvard (Feb. 21) and New Hampshire (Feb. 25). Holy Cross will conclude the month at Vermont (Feb. 28).
Holy Cross will then play two more road games with Maryland-Baltimore County (March 6) and Siena (March 11). The Crusaders will open Patriot League play with a home game against Colgate (March 14), while they will then host Boston College (March 18) and Navy (March 21). Holy Cross will wrap up the month at Bucknell (March 28).
The Crusaders will conclude the regular season home schedule against Yale (April 1) and Lehigh (April 4). Holy Cross will then play the last four regular season games at Fairfield (April 7), Lafayette (April 11), at Connecticut (April 15) and American (April 18).
The Patriot League Tournament will take place on April 24-26, on the campus of the regular season champion. The top four teams in the final regular season standings will qualify for the tournament.