By Jamie Reynolds
Special to GoHolyCross.com
With preseason winding down, the women's soccer team is quickly preparing for the 2012 regular season. Holy Cross returns 17 players including six seniors, seven juniors and four sophomores. The team will welcome five freshmen to the squad and returning senior co-captains Maura Fox (Shrewsbury, Mass.) and Maggie McGoldrick (Cohasset, Mass.) will lead the charge for the Crusaders. Sophomore Gina Righini (Salem, N.H.) also returns as the team's leading scorer, netting four goals while starting all 17 games in 2011.
Holy Cross will kick off the season by hosting Wagner at Linda Johnson Smith Soccer Stadium on Sunday, August 19, at 7:00 p.m.
Recently, fourth-year Holy Cross head women's soccer coach Darren Gallagher talked to GoHolyCross.com as the team looks ahead to the 2012 season.
GoHolyCross: The team began training camp on August 8, which made it a shorter preseason compared to previous seasons. How has the preseason gone and was the team ready and excited to get back on the field this summer?
Gallagher: We've been pretty pleased with it. The players look good. We just played a match away at Sacred Heart, who historically are very strong, and it was a 0-0 tie in which I thought we played very well. The players have worked very hard. We've continued to add quality to the team and I think that's brought everyone's level up. It's that exciting time at the start of the season when everyone is feeling really good about who we are as a group.
GoHolyCross: Fox and McGoldrick are returning for their second season as co-captains. Can you talk a little about the qualities that make them great team leaders?
Gallagher: They're both excellent players and they're great communicators and supportive of everyone. They certainly put the team in front of themselves and lead by example on the field. It's very easy to tell someone what to do and, if you're not doing it yourself, then you have respect issues. But those girls lay it on the line everyday in training and on the field. I think they're natural leaders and the players look up to them and follow them.
GoHolyCross: What are your expectations of the five incoming freshmen?
Gallagher: They're a talented bunch. We have one of them coming back from an ACL injury, and one came on after a preseason tryout, but we're excited about what they're going to bring to the table. They're great soccer players, intelligent soccer players. They've certainly made us better in preseason and I'm sure that will carry through to the season.
Gallagher: Two wonderful keepers. We're lucky. They're battling each other, but they're best of friends. We have a new goalkeeper coach, James Thorpe, who's also coaching the men's team. He's been a great addition to our coaching staff and everyday he's finding it harder to separate them. It's going to be interesting to see who steps ahead in the race for that number one spot, but they're both doing very well.
GoHolyCross: Going into your fourth season, do you feel you're more familiar with the Patriot League and recruiting the right players?
Gallagher: I think with more years playing in the Patriot League you see the type of player that's required to be successful in the league. My feeling on players is the same. I'm looking for technical players and I'm looking for intelligent players. One of the things I've looked at more is the physical aspect. There needs to be a physical element, an athletic element, to the player that's required. The Patriot League is a very, very good league, soccer wise, but it's also a tough league. It's very physically demanding. It's a very athletic conference. So I've looked at things a little bit differently in terms of that, but still my ideas of a great soccer player are pretty consistent.
GoHolyCross: You have 10 home games versus eight road games, and more importantly four Patriot League home games versus three Patriot League road games. Will home field advantage help you this season?
Gallagher: Certainly! It's going to be a bigger advantage than last year when we had more away games. We've always done pretty well here at home. You have the Holy Cross support behind you and all the extra rest for the players makes everyone more comfortable. It's always an advantage being at home, and I think any team out there will tell you that, so it's nice to have 10 and eight.
GoHolyCross: You play 10 non-conference games before the start of league play on September 29 versus Army. How will those games prepare you for conference play?
Gallagher: I think that the purpose of your out of conference games is really to prepare for your conference games. I'll be looking to develop our team during those games, and there are some very challenging games in there. There are some games I'll expect us to do very well in, and I think there's a nice blend this year. But, we will be tinkering with the team and hopefully get to a place where we're pretty consistent and confident going into the Patriot League. That's the key, going into league play with confidence and having some consistent shape to the team at that point.
GoHolyCross: Is there anything specific you are looking for the team to improve on this season compared to previous season?
Gallagher: I think we need to win the games that we lost 1-0. We lost nine games last year by one goal and we were in all of them. We struggled to pull the trigger when we had to and struggled to defend at the right moment in those games. So we need to reverse that and turn a 1-0 loss into a 1-0 win. Sometimes I think a lot of that is confidence, believing in yourself, and not allowing yourself to be beat by that last second goal or that piece of bad luck. So, I think we need to make our own luck and be better, stronger and mentally tougher.
GoHolyCross: What are the team's goals for the 2012 season?
Gallagher: To win the Patriot League.