By Brian Claypool
Special to goholycross.com
Holy Cross head women's soccer coach Darren Gallagher enters his third season at the helm of Crusader soccer with his eyes on a Patriot League championship. Gallagher returns 20 letter winners from last year's team and welcomes six newcomers. "The girls are building great team chemistry and working hard for each other throughout preseason," remarks Gallagher.
As Gallagher directs the action from the sidelines, he will be looking for strong leadership on the field from the team's four captains. Seniors Michaela Morgan (Centerville, Ohio) and Lauren Wright (Biglerville, Pa.), along with juniors Maura Fox (Shrewsbury, Mass.) and Maggie McGoldrick (Cohasset, Mass.) will serve as team captains for the 2011 season.
Two of the team's captains, Morgan and McGoldrick, will return to steady the center of a defensive unit that averaged 1.88 goals against in 2010. Supporting the strong nucleus of the defense, several players will compete throughout the early part of the season for the openings at the defensive back spots. As the competition for the left and right back positions continue, Gallagher is, "looking closely to narrow down the roles on the back line."
With the preseason winding down, Coach Gallagher will look to make a decision on who will mind the net come the start of the regular season. Junior Ashlyn Angell (Raleigh, N.C.) brings the most experience in terms of game time to the goalkeeper position, playing in 11 games with a career goals-against average of 1.94 goals/game. Freshman Carly McCabe (Barrington, R.I.) will also compete for the goalkeeper job.
Fox, second on the team a year ago in scoring with three goals and one assist, will bring leadership and experience to this year's midfield. "Mo is the staple of our midfield," comments Gallagher. "We are still working some things out in the midfield and there are currently some great competitions going on for the open spots. We are trying out different personnel to find out our best look." The Crusaders will continue to experiment with different matchups in the midfield as they look the find the strongest matchup to utilize for conference play in October.
The Crusaders' attack will take on a new look this season. With the graduation of Patriot League standout Shelby Stand, Gallagher is looking to redefine the offensive identity of the squad. Wright will likely move back to familiar territory by shifting up to the center forward position. Wright came to Holy Cross as a forward but moved back to the defense last season as the team needed to solidify their back line due to injuries. She has scored 10 goals with three assists in her career, the most of any Crusader returner. While the competition for offensive complements to Wright is still being decided, sophomores Gaby Ransom (Concord, N.H.) and Sarah Kelley (Bedford, N.H.) have risen to the challenge during preseason. "We have players that can step up to the plate, there's no doubt about that, said Gallagher." "Lauren brings a lot of strength and has scored some important goals for us in the past, Gaby and Sarah have looked good for us in exhibition, both bringing us speed and trickery on the flank."
The Crusaders welcome six new faces to the team this season. The new additions include McCabe, defender Ally Pasquariello (Suffield, Conn.), midfielders Gina Righini (Salem, N.H.), Gabby Codispoti (Baldwin, N.Y.) and Molly Briggs (Hershey, Pa.) and forward Emily Gallagher (Duxbury, Mass.). As preseason comes to a close, Gallagher is pleased with the progress of his latest recruiting class. "The freshmen are working well with their new teammates and providing good competition for starting spots," comments Gallagher.
Holy Cross will open the season at home against Hartford on August 25 and then travel to Providence on August 31 before taking on eight non-league opponents during the month of September. Gallagher has scheduled three games at home and six games away for the month of September. The heavy away schedule will provide the team with critical road experience heading into this year's Patriot League schedule. "The team needs to prove that they can win on the road this year," said Gallagher. "We look to come out of non-conference play with a winning record to give the team a boost heading into conference games."
October will begin the most crucial portion of the soccer season for the team, Patriot League play. The Crusaders open up Patriot League action on the road, squaring off against the pre-season poll favorite Army on Oct. 2. Then, Holy Cross will play back-to-back conference home matches the second weekend in October against Bucknell on Oct.7 and Colgate on Oct. 9. The team will then embark on the challenge of playing three league games in a row on the road. On Oct. 15 the Crusaders will travel to Lafayette, return home for a mid-week tune-up in a non-conference match against Brown on Oct.18 and then head south for a conference weekend at Patriot League opponents American (Oct. 21) and Navy (Oct. 23). At the end of the month, Linda Johnson Smith Soccer Stadium will be a welcome sight as the Crusaders return home to finish off their regular season and conference play against defending Patriot League champion Lehigh (Oct. 29).
The month of October will be challenging for the Crusaders, especially playing more conference games on the road than at home this season. After falling short in four of the seven Patriot League games a year ago by only one goal, Gallagher knows that the team is not far from breaking out and gaining a spot in the this year's Patriot League Championship Tournament. "We want to make a splash in the Patriot League this year," notes Gallagher. He further elaborates that the recipe for success this season will be for his players "to believe in themselves, work hard for each other, and to learn from their experiences throughout the season."
At the conclusion of the regular season, a bid to the Patriot League Tournament will be known. The Patriot League Tournament is set for Nov. 4 and 6, on the campus of the regular season champion. The top four teams in the final regular season standings will take part in the tournament, with Holy Cross looking to make the field of four for the first time since 2000.