Holy Cross Athletics
Holy Cross Athletics

Crusaders Set For 2015-2016 Season

Holy Cross Athletics   11-10-2015

By Jim Sarkisian
Assistant Director of Athletic Media Relations

It has been eight years since the Holy Cross women’s basketball program has cut down the nets, but head coach Bill Gibbons – who is set to embark on his 31st season at the helm – is as optimistic as ever.

And he should be…

Prior to the 2014-2015 season, the Crusaders had made it all the way to the Patriot League Championship Game three straight seasons only to suffer setbacks in each game. Last year, Holy Cross was in a prime spot to make it a fourth straight season, but the third-seeded Crusaders were upset in the quarterfinal round by No. 6 Lehigh.

After posting a 4-5 mark during the first half of last year’s Patriot League schedule, the Crusaders found their way and won seven of their final nine games – including their final four regular season contests – to earn the No. 3 seed in the Patriot League Tournament.

Holy Cross looks to build off last year’s end-of-season success, as it returns 10 letterwinners and four starters to the lineup, including first team All-Patriot League selection Raquel Scott and third team All-Patriot League honoree Lisa Mifsud.

This returning group of players has Gibbons excited for the upcoming campaign.

“This team has been through it all,” said Gibbons. “They have been through the rigors of the season and they know what Patriot League playoff basketball is about. The biggest strength of our team this season is the experience and knowledge of what it will take to win a Patriot League Championship.”

Holy Cross, who owns the most Patriot League championship in league history with 11, has its sights set for one thing this year – number 12. The Crusaders will look to their four seniors and more specifically their two captains, Scott and Kate Gillespie for leadership and guidance throughout the season.

“This group of seniors has been to a pair of Patriot League Championships,” said Gibbons, “only to watch the other team cut down the net. They are hungry and want more than ever to cut down the net in March and go to the NCAA Tournament.”

BACKCOURT

The Crusaders’ strength this season will lie in their backcourt, as they return all six guards from last year’s squad. Led by seniors Lisa Mifsud and Kate Gillespie, the Holy Cross guards have the versatility to not only shoot from long range, but to also to run a fast-paced offense.

Mifsud had her role increased during her junior season and she answered the call with 12.4 points and 3.8 assists per game, which ranked eighth and second in the Patriot League, respectively. She also canned a team-high 55 three-pointers last year and drilled a team-best 72.9 percent of her free-throws.

Gillespie played in all 32 games for Holy Cross last year and averaged 6.6 points per game, while shooting 35.9 percent from long range (46-128). She tallied eight double-digit scoring games in 2014-2015 including a career-high 23 points against Manhattan.

“Both Lisa and Kate have a lot of experience and that will be beneficial for us this season,” said Gibbons. “We expect Lisa to continue her progression in the point-guard role, but we may also see her play some two-guard as needed.

“Kate has the ability to open up the floor with her long-range shot and that will also help us as the season goes on. It’s nice to have two veterans coming back in the backcourt.”

The Crusaders also return 32-game starter and Patriot League All-Rookie team selection Katie Doherty to the lineup this season, as the sophomore averaged 6.5 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game in 2014-2015.

“Katie was a steady player for us last year,” said Gibbons, “and we are looking to have her do even more this season. I think you always need that steady and solid piece to the backcourt and she is definitely that for us.”

Holy Cross also brings back three other sophomore guards in Tricia Byrne, Shannon Druck and Infiniti Thomas-Waheed, who all add depth to the backcourt. Thomas-Waheed had a solid rookie campaign, as she averaged 5.5 points and 3.2 rebounds per game, while Byrne played in all 32 games and averaged 2.0 points and 1.0 steals per contest.

“The game-playing experience these three had last year will be invaluable to them this year,” said Gibbons. “We are very deep at the guard spot and will look to use everyone in some capacity this season.”

FRONTCOURT

The Holy Cross frontcourt will be led by one of the top forwards in the Patriot League in Raquel Scott. Scott is coming off a first-team All-Patriot League campaign in which she averaged 16.7 points and 9.8 rebounds per game, while recording 13 double-doubles. She enters the 2015-2016 season as the 21st all-time leading scorer in Holy Cross history (1,125 points) and ranks sixth all-time in career rebounds with 756.

Scott, who was named to the preseason All-Patriot League team in 2015-2016, will lead the Crusaders both on and off the court this season with her dominant play and her vocal competitiveness. 

“Raquel is a natural leader,” said Gibbons. “It helps when you hardest working player is also one of your leaders and that’s how it is with Raquel. She is one of the most talented athletes I’ve coached and she has a chance to not only be the Patriot League Player of the Year, but also one of the best players in the history of the league.”

In addition to Scott in the frontcourt, the Crusaders will look to 6-4 center Molly Hourigan to have a solid campaign. Hourigan, who led the Patriot League with 2.3 blocks per game in 2014-2015, also averaged 4.6 points and 5.3 boards per contest last year. With the graduation of Emily Parker, Hourigan will be called upon more this year to log additional minutes at the five spot and provide an offensive presence down low.

“Molly has always had Emily to be the 1-2 punch, but now she’s the punch,” said Gibbons. “She has worked hard this past offseason and is embracing this role now as the starting center. We expect her to grow into this role and have a great senior season.”

Holy Cross will look to sophomore Amy Hasenauer to spell Hourigan at the five spot, as the 6-2 forward played in 22 games during her rookie season. Hasenauer averaged 1.4 rebounds and 0.5 blocks per game in 2014-2015. Junior Madelyn Ganser will primarily provide depth to the Crusader frontcourt, but can also play the three-guard if called upon.

In addition, the Crusaders welcome a pair of freshmen to the squad in 6-1 forward Maggie Locke and 6-3 center Miranda Nixon.

“I’m looking for contributions from both freshmen this season,” said Gibbons. “Miranda will play the five-spot on the floor for us, while Maggie can play either the four or five. I am pleased with the way they both have progressed this preseason.”

SCHEDULE

Holy Cross will play a 29-game schedule with 14 games in the friendly confines of the Hart Center. The Crusaders’ schedule includes four schools that advanced to postseason play last season and eight contests against teams that had winning records in 2014-2015.

“We are excited about another challenging schedule this year,” said Gibbons. “The non-conference slate featuring two ACC teams, a Big 10 team and the defending MAAC champions should really prepare our team for the Patriot League season.”

Holy Cross’ non-conference slate will include five home games against UMass, Bryant, Vermont, Manhattan and Dartmouth. The Crusaders will face a tough non-conference road schedule this season, with contests at Penn State, Boston College, Yale and UMass Lowell, as well as 2015 NCAA Tournament participants Quinnipiac and Pittsburgh.

In Patriot League play, Holy Cross will have home-and-home series against each of the nine other teams in the conference. The league schedule will be highlighted by contests against 2015 Patriot League Tournament and regular season champion American and preseason Patriot League favorite Army West Point.

“The Patriot League, which I continue to believe, is the most underrated conference in college women’s basketball,” said Gibbons. “We have quality teams in our league, who continue to prove that they can compete with the country’s best.”

The 2015-2016 Patriot League Tournament will feature a different format than in past seasons. The first round and quarterfinal matchups will take place on the campus of the higher seeded team. The highest remaining seed will then host the semifinal and championship games of the tournament.

“I really like the new format of the league tournament system with the semifinals and championship game being played on consecutive days at the same site,” said Gibbons. “It gives the playoffs a nice ‘Tournament-Feel’ playing back-to-back days and one of our goals will be to host the final two games at the Hart Center.”

NEW GAME FORMAT

The upcoming season will feature a plethora of changes to the women’s basketball game. Some big modifications include moving the game to four quarters rather than two halves, eliminating the one-and-one free throw chances, and being able to advance the ball up the court on a timeout in the second and fourth quarter will less than a minute on the clock.

“It will be a different game to coach in for sure,” said Gibbons. “I think it will be a little bit of trial-and-error early on, but I am anxious to see how the fans like it. We are going to have to talk about certain situations as a coaching staff so we are prepared for whatever may come up on game day.”

Single-game tickets, season tickets and mini plans to see the Crusaders are on sale now. Make sure you don’t miss the opportunity to see the best collegiate basketball in Central Massachusetts! Tickets for Holy Cross basketball can be purchased online at GoHolyCross.com/tickets or over the phone by calling 1-844-GOCROSS.

For everything Holy Cross women’s basketball, follow the team on Twitter (@HCrossWBB), on Facebook and on Instagram. You can also subscribe for email alerts for all news and information on the team by clicking here.

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