March 17, 2007

Crusaders Continue Preparation for Duke

March 17, 2007

PHOTO GALLERY

RALEIGH, N.C. - The Holy Cross women's basketball team practiced twice on Saturday in preparation for its 2007 NCAA Tournament opener on Sunday night against Duke (7:22 p.m. / ESPN2).

The Crusaders practiced privately followed by an open practice Saturday afternoon at the RBC Center, the site of the NCAA First and Second Round competitions.

Coaches and student-athletes from the eight schools at the Raleigh site participated in media interviews either before or after practices open to the public.

Holy Cross makes its 12th NCAA Tournament appearance with an overall record of 15-17 on the season. The Crusaders won the Patriot League Tournament title for the 11th time in school history.

HOLY CROSS PRESS CONFERENCE QUOTES:

Head Coach Bill Gibbons Opening Statement We are thrilled to be here, we love the bright lights and the NCAA tournament. It's nice to be back. It's an improbable run for us. This is my 12th trip at Holy Cross, and most of the time we were favorites to win the league and get the automatic bid. This year we had two point guards go down in December and finished third in the league, and not many people thought we were going to be here. That's what makes it so sweet. It's a credit to our seniors and the way the team stuck together and kept believing. I think it shows what a true team can accomplish when the experts have counted you out. We are thrilled to be here and we know we have a major challenge to be playing Duke, but we are down here to compete and give them a battle.

On previous experience playing Duke: After the selections came out, someone said to me, "At least you know them and their weaknesses." I said, "That's true, but I don't know if they have any weaknesses. I believe the aura of playing Duke and the #1 team in the country is off now. We also play UConn every year, so our philosophy is to play the best.

On travel problems: We practiced before class yesterday, and we had all intentions of beating the storm out of town. Just as we were leaving town, it started snowing. Our flight was cancelled, and at 3 p.m. we learned the NCAA had gotten a charter for us to fly out Saturday morning. The Boston Herald took a picture of three of the girls lounging in the airport and listening to their iPods. Initially, we were going to go back to Worcester, and I said, "No, we're not going back." We got 16 rooms at a hotel we had passed earlier and had dinner and dessert and cheered for our men's team. This morning we got up and had breakfast and left from Logan Airport. It was a little atypical but we stayed together and that made it a nice trip. Better late than never.

On his view of Duke: Even though Curry is gone, I've seen a big change in Alison Bales, as far as her maturity. She took her game to the next level at the end of last year and then continued this year. I think Lindsey Harding has elevated her game as well. They have all the pieces, and it's just a manner of their personnel maturing, and that makes them a better team. They were my pick before we were chosen to play them. If they can get by the Crusaders, I think they have the best team. If I had to vote for player of the year, it would be Lindsey Harding."

On the injury problems: The two girls we lost were both point guards, so we had an experiment and tried everyone except our manager at point guard at one time or another. We had Bethany O'Dell there, but we thought she was more effective coming off of the ball. Then we had Briana McFadden, who had never played the point, we put her there. And that was kind of the start of our preseason. Unfortunately, it was January 1st. We just kept getting better and kids started settling into their roles. Then we had the adversity of Brittany Keil and her knee problems and she has fought her way through those. So it wasn't just losing the point guard we were dealing with, it was getting Brittany as healthy as possible. We wanted to have fun and stay relaxed. We wanted to enjoy the experience; we didn't just want to make a run and not enjoy it while it was happening. I never saw the girls smile so much as they did during the tournament, and I think that's one of the reasons we won. We are playing with confidence but we are having fun as well.

Kaitlin Foley, Senior / Center On how the season experiences will help in the tournament: We had to deal with a lot of adversity this year. We were looking to peak too early and we weren't on the same page. Then we peaked at the optimal time during the championship. Right now we are all on the same page and our freshmen have really settled into their roles. We have a huge task on our hands but this is the best time, since we are all playing as a team and playing together. It's a great time for our team.

DUKE PRESS CONFERENCE QUOTES:

Head Coach Gail Goestenkors Opening Statement We're really excited to be playing close to home and we feel that this is an extremely challenging sub-regional, very exciting, and we're ready to play. It's been a long time since we had a game and our last game was not our best game, so we're anxious to get out and redeem ourselves.

On the long layoff since their last game This will be our fourth game in 27 days so it's interesting that you go through the entire season and play two or three games a week and then you have these huge breaks, but, I think it has kept us fresh. I gave the players a few days off for spring break just to get away from basketball and get mentally and physically rested. We came back and had a great week of practice, very competitive and very intense. As far as what we worked on, it was about getting back to basics. When you do have so many games together you're always preparing for your next opponent. This time allowed us to just focus on who we are and who we've been all year long.

I think the time off helped. We've got some sore knees just through the wear and tear over the course of the season and I feel like when we played our last game against NC State I feel like we had some dead legs. We were just fatigued, so, I think it's given us a chance to get mentally and physically refreshed.

Abby Waner, Sophomore / Guard On being close to home I think it's good to be in our comfort zone, like tomorrow, we're going through our same routine that we'd go through if we had a home game. It's nice to be familiar with our routine and what we're doing. As far as staying in our own beds, tonight, the people who are in the dorms are staying in a hotel to kind of get away because people are back from spring break and are probably going to be louder tonight. It is nice to be able to go back to our own rooms and get ready to play.

Lindsey Harding, Senior / Guard On the layoff since their last game I feel we've been really anxious to get back and play and like Coach said, we want to redeem ourselves. Our practices, I feel, have been great, very competitive. We've been going at each other because we know it's the hardest going back against each other. I think we're just ready to play.