Crusaders Host Yale To Open 2012-2013 Regular Season

Kelly Hamner

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The Teams:
Holy Cross (0-0, 0-0 Patriot) vs. Yale (0-0, 0-0 Ivy)
Date: November 9, 2012
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Place: Hart Center (3,600), Worcester, Mass. 
Holy Cross Radio: Stretch Internet Radio, Dick Lutsk; play-by-play; Click here
Unofficial Live Stats: Click here
Series Record: Yale leads, 7-6
Last Meeting: Yale 76, Holy Cross 71 (November 11, 2011, New Haven, Conn.) 

This will be the 14th meeting between the Crusaders and Bulldogs. Yale holds a 7-6 record over the Crusaders and enters the contest on a four-game winning streak. Last season, Holy Cross fell to Yale by a score of 76-71 at the Lee Amphitheater in New Haven, Conn. The last Crusader victory against the Bulldogs was a 66-59 triumph on January 6, 2008 at the Hart Center. Head coach Bill Gibbons is 4-5 versus the Bulldogs in his career, while Yale head coach Chris Gobrecht is now 4-2 after last season's victory. Yale has been the season opener for the Crusaders in five of the last six seasons.

Holy Cross owns a 21-17 record in its opening game of the season. This year will mark the 23rd time the Crusaders open the regular season at the Hart Center.  In season openers at the Hart Center, Holy Cross is 12-10 and is currently on a three-game losing streak. The Crusaders come into this contest having lost five straight regular season openers with their last victory coming in a 68-56 win over Yale on November 10, 2006. The team won its first season-opener under the guidance of Bill Gibbons on Nov. 23, 1985 away at Eastern Michigan. Since Gibbons took over as head coach, the Crusaders stand at 16-11 in openers. Over the past 10 years, Holy Cross is 4-6 on opening day, defeating St. Peters (70-64, 2002-2003), Providence (68-48, 2004-2005), Northeastern (76-60, 2005-2006) and Yale (68-56, 2006-2007), while falling to St. Peter's (87-76, 2003-2004), Vermont (54-45, 2007-2008) and most recently to Yale (65-63, 2008-2009, 66-60, 2009-2010, 74-71, 2010-2011, 77-71, 2011-2012).

In its program history, Holy Cross has played four of the eight teams in the Ivy League (Yale, Harvard, Dartmouth and Brown). Last year, Holy Cross went 3-1 against its Ivy League rivals. This season, the Crusaders will again face the same four Ivy League teams beginning with Yale. Holy Cross will host Harvard (Nov. 20) and Brown (Jan. 8), and travel to Dartmouth (Jan. 3). Harvard and Yale have been the two most frequent Ivy League opponents on the slate with a combined 26 games played versus the Crusaders. Dartmouth will face Holy Cross for the 10th time this season, as the Big Green control the all-time series 6-3. Brown is the fourth and final Ivy League team Holy Cross will face this season as the Crusaders have won all four meetings.

Holy Cross was picked to finish third in the 2012-2013 Patriot League preseason poll, receiving 70 points and one first place vote. Navy was chosen to finish first, receiving eight first-place votes as junior Jade Geif was voted preseason Patriot League Player of the Year. The Mids earned a league-high 89 points and was followed by American, who received six first place votes and 85 points. Army was picked fourth with 66 points and one first place vote, while Lehigh (58 points) and Lafayette (30 points) were selected fifth and sixth, respectively.  Bucknell and Colgate tied for seventh in the poll with 25 points each.

The two leading scorers for the Crusaders last year, Amy Lepley (Norfolk, Mass.) and Alex Smith (Delran, N.J.) were named captains for the 2012-2013 season. Smith is coming off first-team All-Patriot League honors last year as she started in all 34 games. She averaged 12.5 points, 5.5 assists and 2.1 steals per contest. Her assist mark was tops in the Patriot League, while her points average was fifth. Lepley was named to the second-team All-Patriot League a season ago as she led the Crusaders with 13.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per contest. Her points-per-game average was third in the Patriot League, while her field goal percentage of 0.499 was also third-best. In addition, both players were also selected to the 2012-2013 preseason All-Patriot League.

After coming off great campaigns a season ago, Lepley and Smith were chosen to the preseason All-Patriot League team in a vote by conference sports information directors and head coaches. The duo joins the team with Army senior forward Anna Simmers, and two juniors, American's Alexis Dobbs and Navy's Jade Geif. Lepley and Smith were key contributors to last-year's Patriot League runner-up finish as they started in all 34 games for the Crusaders. Also, the pair was selected to the Patriot League All-Tournament team last year.

Sophomore forward Emily Parker (Johnston, Iowa) is coming off a solid freshman campaign in which she took home Patriot League All-Rookie team accolades in 2011-2012. The 6'2" Parker played the number five position on the floor for the Crusaders as she appeared in 32 contests, starting in 31 of them, a season ago. She averaged 10.1 points and 6.0 rebounds per game, while also blocking a team-best 38 shots. Her points mark was third on the squad, while her rebound average was second. Parker notched two double-doubles as a freshman including a 17 point, 10 rebound performance against Yale in last year's season opener.

Last season, Holy Cross was ranked ninth in the country and first in the Patriot League with 16.9 assists per contest and that largely had to do with junior guards Alex Smith and Brisje Malone (Springfield, Mass.). Smith was tops in the conference with 5.5 helpers per game, while Malone was just behind her with 3.6 assists. Malone played in all 34 games in 2011-2012 and started in all but one. She averaged 8.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.5 steals in just under 30 minutes per game. The 1-2 combo of Smith and Malone at the guard position will help create many great shot opportunities for the Crusader shooters.

Junior forward Christine Ganser (Needham, Mass.) will round out the projected starting five as she played in all 34 games last year and improved in all major statistical categories from her freshman season. She averaged 19.5 minutes of playing time and put up totals of 6.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. Ganser also performed well from the charity strip a season ago as she converted on 76.5 percent of her free throws, which was second best on the team.

: Junior guard Kelly Hamner (Manassas, Va.) comes back this year healthy after missing the final 10 games of last season. She had played in all of the previous 24 games in 2011-2012 and averaged 3.0 points and 2.6 rebounds in 16.4 minutes of action. For her career she has played in 52 games and has scored 156 points.

Holy Cross adds five new faces to this year's team with a large freshman class. Guards Lisa Mifsud (Erie, Pa.), Kate Gilelspie (Washington D.C.) and Jenn Walsh (Dallas, Texas) all were league champions for their respective high schools. Gillespie was also named Washington D.C. Gatorade girls basketball player of the year as a senior. In the front court, Raquel Scott (Ridgewood, N.J.) and Molly Hourigan (Memphis, N.Y.) add size to an already tall front line. The 6'0" Scott comes from Immaculate Heart Academy, while the 6'4" Hourigan is the team's only center and is from Jordan-Elbridge.

The Crusaders will have a very deep bench this season with every player asked to do something different.  Sophomore guard Ashley Cooper (Colts Neck, N.J.) is a sharpshooter from behind the arc as she drained 33.8 percent of her three-pointers in her freshman campaign. Fellow classmate Clare Sullivan (Belmont, Mass.) adds height to the frontcourt, as the 6'3" forward saw action in 24 games last year with 35 total rebounds. Senior guard Alexis Nicholas (Jamaica, N.Y.) and forward Kaitlin Cole (Springfield, Pa.) will round out the bench as the pair combined for just under 10 minutes per game a season ago.

The Crusaders are approaching this season with the theme of "unfinished business," as it is looking to capture the Patriot League crown for the 12th time in the program's history. Last season, the Crusaders made it to the Patriot League championship game for the first time since 2008, after knocking off top-seeded American in the semifinals. However, the team fell to Navy in the title game, 57-48, one win shy of going to the NCAA Tournament. The goal is to get back into the Patriot League Championship game and claim their first NCAA tournament automatic bid since the 2006-2007 season.

Lepley and Smith are on pace to reach the 1,000 career points milestone this season. Lepley is only 48 points shy from the historic mark and would become the 28th player to score 1,000 points. She is also in reach to finish her career in the top-15 on the all-time career points list. Smith is 255 points away from the 1,000 point milestone and would the 11th player to reach the mark during their junior season. Smith also has a chance to get into the top-20 on the all-time scoring list by season's end.

Alex Smith is currently in the top-10 in three categories in the Holy Cross record book. Smith is fourth in career three-pointers made with 167, with Bethany O'Dell holding the record of 277 from 2006-2010. Another mark in the record book is Smith's 447 three-pointers attempted, which is sixth all-time behind O'Dell's 700 shots. Smith is also fifth on the list in three-point percentage as she connects on 37.4 percent of her shots from behind the arc. She currently holds the Crusader single-season mark for three-pointers attempted with 227, which was accomplished last year. Also in 2011-12, Smith posted the second-best mark in the record book for three pointers converted with 85 treys. Smith is also the record holder with the most minutes played in a season with 1199 in 2011-12 and is tied for most games played in a season with 34, also accomplished last year.

The Crusaders are coming off one of their best offensive seasons in recent years, as the team led the Patriot League in many shooting categories. Holy Cross led the conference with 2144 total points, which averaged to 63.1 points per contest. The Crusaders also held the best field goal percentage in the league as they connected on 41.3 percent of their shots. Holy Cross' three-point mark in the Patriot League was second only to Navy, as they hit 178 treys and converted on 32.6 percent of their shots from downtown.

The Crusaders finished the 2011-2012 season ranked among the top 125 in the NCAA Division I leaders for five statistical categories. In addition, several players ended the year among the top 200 in the nation in individual statistics. The rankings:

Assists Rank    Player/Team Avg./Pct.
Assists 9   Holy Cross 16.9
  18   Alex Smith 5.5
  164   Brisje Malone 3.6
Assist-Turnover Ratio 22   Holy Cross 1.01

90   Alex Smith 1.48
  188   Brisje Malone 1.14
Field Goal Percentage 36   Amy Lepley 49.9
  63   Holy Cross 41.3
Three-Pointers Made 36   Alex Smith 2.5
  123   Holy Cross 5.2
Three-Point Percentage 38   Alex Smith 37.1
  68   Holy Cross 32.6
Free-Throw Percentage 167   Christine Ganser 76.5
Steals 168   Alex Smith 2.06
Blocks 188   Emily Parker 1.19


HOME SWEET HOME: Holy Cross boasts a very strong record when playing at the Hart Center. In the 37 years of the women's program, the Crusaders have an all-time record winning percentage of 0.746 when playing their games at home (344-117). Since Holy Cross went to Division I during the 1982-83 season, they hold an even better 0.768 winning percentage with a record of 305-92 at the Hart Center.

Five years ago, the Crusaders captured their 11th Patriot League Tournament Crown with a 56-48 victory over American on March 7, 2007. Holy Cross has won half of the 22 Patriot League Championships since the conference's inception during the 1990-91 season. The Crusaders' previous tournament titles came in 2005, 2003, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1996, 1995, 1993 and 1991. Holy Cross has also appeared in the championship game 11 times over the past 15 years. Overall the Crusaders have made a conference-record 16 appearances in the Patriot League championship game.

On Tuesday, Nov. 13, Holy Cross will host Atlantic Coast Conference rival Boston College. The game will be the second of the season for both teams and will be played at 7:00 p.m. at the Hart Center. This will mark the 33rd meeting between the two squads as the Eagles lead the series 25-7.

Bill Gibbons is in his 28th season at the helm of the Holy Cross women's basketball program and 32nd as a member of the Holy Cross basketball family in 2012-2013. He has compiled a 515-301 record as head coach (.631 winning percentage), including a 19-15 record at the helm last season. He ranks 20th on the active Division I win leaders list after winning his 500th game on December 3, 2011. His quarter-century pledge to the team has made a major impact on all aspects of the women's basketball world and especially in the surrounding community. He has led the Crusaders to 11 Patriot League Championships in the last 22 years. He has also made 13 postseason appearances (11 NCAA Tournaments, one WNIT and one WBI) in his 27 years as head coach. With sixteen 20-win seasons under his belt, Gibbons has cemented himself and the women's basketball program as one of the best in the East. The sixth coach of the women's program at Holy Cross, Gibbons has enjoyed the longest tenure in the position. He has led the Holy Cross women's basketball program to more victories than any other coach, and is the winningest coach in Holy Cross Basketball history. With his 358th victory, he surpassed George Blaney (357 wins as head coach of the Holy Cross men's basketball program), who had hired him to be his assistant coach in 1981. Now with more than 515 wins, Gibbons is the second-winningest coach in Holy Cross Athletics history, behind legendary baseball coach Jack Barry, who totaled 616 wins from 1921-1960.


2012-2013 SQUAD:
The Yale women's basketball team was picked to finish third in the Ivy League. Led by first team All-Ivy League selection senior Megan Vasquez, Yale's top scorer for the last three seasons, the Bulldogs return nine letter-winners, including junior Janna Graf and reigning Ivy League Rookie of the Year Sarah Halejian.  Vasquez averaged 15.3 points per game as a junior and crossed the 1,000 point threshold a season ago. Graf averaged 10.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per game last year as Halejian put up 8.1 points per contest. 

Head coach Chris Gobrecht enters her eighth season at the helm of the Yale women's basketball team and her 33nd year of coaching Division I basketball programs. Last year she led her team to a 16-12 record (8-6 Ivy League). Over the past two seasons, Gobrecht has piloted the Bulldogs to the most Ivy League wins for Yale in a two-year span with 18 total victories. In her 32-year career, Gobrecht has recorded 503 wins and 428 losses, as she is 22nd on the list of NCAA Division I winningest active coaches by victories.