Crusaders Prepare For Huskies On Friday

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Nov. 16, 2005

The Teams: Holy Cross (0-0, 0-0 PL) vs. Northeastern (0-0, 0-0 CAA)
Date: November 18, 2005
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Place: Solomon Court (2,500), Boston, Mass.
Broadcast Information:
Talent: Jeremy Lechan, play-by-play
Series History: Holy Cross leads 12-1
Last Meeting: Northeastern, 68-64 (December 20, 2004 at Holy Cross)
Series Streak: Northeastern - 1

Pos.  No.  Name               Ht.   Cl.
G      15  Shannon Bush      5-11   Sr.
G      10  Sarah Placek      5-3    Sr.
G      05  Laura Aloisi      5-9    So.
F      33  Brittany  Keil    6-2    Jr.
C      52  Kaitlin Foley     6-4    Jr.

Friday night's game is the 14th all-time meeting between Holy Cross and Northeastern in the 31 seasons of varsity basketball at Holy Cross.

THE SERIES: Holy Cross has a 12-1 series advantage over Northeastern, and is undefeated (6-0) when playing the Huskies in Boston. Northeastern's lone victory in the series history came just last season when the Huskies battled to a 68-64 victory at the Hart Center on December 20. In that game, Northeastern's Maralene Zwarich poured in a game-high 20 points, as eight players (four Crusaders and four Huskies) reached double figures. Northeastern guard Shaleyse Smallwood went 8-for-15 from the field to score 18 points and Michele Decerbo and the since-graduated Francesca Vanin chipped in 14 and 10 points, respectively. The since-departed Lisa Andrews had a team-high 18 points for the Crusaders, who got 16 points from Sarah Placek, 14 points from Jessica Conte, and 10 points from Shannon Bush. Laura Aloisi (knee), Maggie Fontana (knee), and Brittany Keil (foot) did not dress for Holy Cross. Holy Cross had a 28-21 lead at the half.

SEASON OPENERS: Holy Cross is 16-7 in season openers since joining Division I (19-12 overall in season openers). The last time Holy Cross played Northeastern in a season-opening game was during the 1989-90 season when the Crusaders won decisively, 79-35. The last time Holy Cross lost a season-opening game was during the 2003-04 campaign when St. John's took an 87-76 decision at the Hart Center.

HOLY CROSS SEASON PREVIEW: Holy Cross heads into the 2005-06 campaign as the reigning Patriot League champion, after capturing the program's 10th conference title and making its 11th NCAA Tournament appearance last season.

Holy Cross has 11 Patriot League regular season titles and 10 Patriot League Tournament titles in the 15-year history of the League. The only other team in the League's history that has more than one championship title is Fordham, a former member, who won two.

The 2004-05 Crusaders posted an overall record of 20-11, marking the program's 18th twenty-win season, and the 16th twenty-win season under the direction of head coach Bill Gibbons. Holy Cross also dominated league play, going 12-2 against Patriot League competition, which marked the fourth time the Crusaders won 12 or more games in conference play while a member of the Patriot League. The Crusaders finished the season ranked first in the league in seven different team categories and ranked 19th in the nation in assists per game (16.8 assists per game), showing their strengths on both sides of the ball.

As a team, Holy Cross led the Patriot League in scoring margin (+9.2 points per game), assists (17.4 assists per game), steals (11.7 steals per game), field goal percentage (.426 percent), field goal percentage defense (.379 percent), free throw percentage (.754 percent) and three-point field goal percentage defense (.279 percent).

With eight letterwinners and three starters returning from last year's championship squad, the Holy Cross women's basketball team will work to continue its success in the Patriot League and look to contend for their fourth postseason tournament bid in the last five years.

THIS TIME OUT: Holy Cross and Northeastern will meet for the 14th time in the 31-year history of women's basketball on the Hill.

LAST TIME OUT: Senior guards Jessica Conte (New Canaan, Conn.) and Sarah Placek (Alexandria, Va.) combined for 30 points to lead the Crusaders team to a 68-47 win over McGill University in the Crusaders' lone exhibition game of the season on Sunday, Nov. 6.

Conte led the Crusaders with 16 points, going six-for-10 from the field and Placek pitched in 14 points and five assists. Junior swingman Brittany Keil (Sparta, N.J.) added 12 points on five-of-seven shooting from the floor, to go along with five blocks.

Sophomore point guard Laura Aloisi (Nashua, N.H.) handed out a game-high seven assists for the Crusaders, who had a ten point lead (33-23) at the half.

The Crusaders shot 40.7 percent from the floor, including an impressive 52 percent from the field in the second half. On the defensive side of the ball, the Crusaders forced 32 McGill turnovers, including 15 steals, and blocked eight Martlet shot attempts.

NEXT TIME OUT: The Crusaders travel to Amherst, Mass., for a 2:00 p.m. matinee with Massachusetts on Sunday, Nov. 20. Last season, the Minutewomen took a 61-60 decision over Holy Cross at the Hart Center on Nov. 23. Holy Cross leads the all-time series, 8-6, but UMass is 4-3 when playing the Crusaders at the Mullins Center.

HOLY CROSS IN SEASON OPENERS: Holy Cross has posted a record of 16-7 in season openers since jumping to Division I in 1982. Last season, Holy Cross won its season-opening game, 68-48 over Providence. The last time Holy Cross lost a season-opening game was during the 2003-04 campaign when St. John's defeated the Crusaders, 87-76, at the Hart Center.

The last time Holy Cross played Northeastern in a season-opening game was during the 1989-90 season when the Crusaders won decisively, 79-35.

CRUSADERS PICKED TO REPEAT: Holy Cross was recently picked first in the Patriot League preseason poll for the second consecutive season. The Crusaders received 94 total votes, inlcuding 11 first place nods. Holy Cross is coming off its 16th 20-win season under the direction of head coach Bill Gibbons and its 10th Patriot League Tournament Title.

KEIL NAMED PRESEASON ALL-LEAGUE: Junior guard/forward Brittany Keil (Sparta, N.J.) was named to the Patriot League Preseason All-League Team. Keil returns to the Holy Cross line-up as the team's top scorer (9.6 ppg) and rebounder (5.3 rpg). She is also the team's top three-point (.420 percent) and free throw (.810 percent) shooter from a year ago.

WELCOME TO WORCESTER: Morgan Valley is entering her first season as assistant coach on the Holy Cross staff. Valley graduated from Connecticut in May and won three national titles with the Huskies under head coach Geno Auriemma.

2005-06 CAPTAINS: Senior guards Shannon Bush (Doylestown, Pa.), Jessica Conte (New Canaan, Conn.) and Sarah Placek (Alexandria, Va.), have been named team captains for the 2005-06 season.

COUNTDOWN TO 1,000: Senior guard Sarah Placek comes into the season with 810 career points and is just 190 points away from being the program's 22nd 1,000 point scorer. Should Placek reach the 1,000 point plateau, it would mark the third consecutive season a Holy Cross women's basketball player joined the 1,000 point club (Lisa Andrews in 2004-05, Maggie Fontana in 2003-04). Placek would also be the sixth Holy Cross player in the last four years (Andrews in 2004-05, Fontana in 2003-04, and Katie O'Keefe, Jeanette Paukert and Amanda Abraham in 2001-02) to score 1,000 career points.

Placek needs to average 7.0 points per game this year to reach the 1,000 point mark in the regular season. In her three years in a Holy Cross uniform, the five-foot-three guard has never averaged below 8.5 points per game. Her sophomore season, she averaged a career-best 10.5 points per game. Placek's career high in a single game is 23 points (Dec. 7, 2004 at Rhode Island).

NEWCOMERS: Holy Cross welcomes three newcomers this season, including Pennsylvania native Jessica Pearson, New York native Jessica Merrihue and Illinois product, Kathy Gruzynski. Pearson will look to work into the backcourt rotation, while the two six-foot-two post players, Merrihue and Gruzynski, will fight for playing time in the paint.

Pearson led her high school team to a top 10 national ranking, while Merrihue brought her AAU team (Liberty Belles) to the 2004 U.S. Junior National championship. Gruzynski is coming off an impressive high school campaign in which she averaged almost 20 points per game.

SCOUTING THE HUSKIES: Northeastern was picked to finish ninth in its first-ever Colonial Athletic Association preseason poll, as announced on Oct. 26. In addition, senior guard Maralene Zwarich (Merriam, Kan.) was selected to the CAA preseason all-conference second team. Zwarich was a first-team all-conference selection in the America East last season. The six-foot swing player led the Huskies with 17.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per game a year ago. She enters this season ranked tenth among Northeastern's all-time 1,000 point scorers with 1,187 career points.

Junior guard Jody Burrows (Corry, Penn.) and senior forward Michelle Decerbo (Naugatuck, Conn.) have been named captains for the 2005-06 season. Burrows averaged 7.2 points and 3.8 rebounds per game last season. The five-foot-five playmaker led the team with 103 assists in 2004-05, a mark that tied her for seventh on Northeastern's all-time single-season list. Burrows also scored in double digits in eight games last season.

The six-foot-one Decerbo averaged 8.9 points and 5.3 rebounds per game in 2004-05, while leading the team with nine blocks a season ago.

Sophomore guard Shaleyse Smallwood (Boston, Mass.) was named the 2004-05 America East Rookie of the Year last season after averaging 13.1 points per game in her freshman campaign. Smallwood is the first Husky to recieve the America East Rookie of the Year award since Betsy Palecek in 1995-96. Palecek was recently inducted into the Northeastern University Hall of Fame.

Northeastern welcomes five newcomers to the team this season, including three freshmen, a sophomore and a senior.

The Huskies lost 12.5 points and 2.1 rebounds per game due to the graduation of forwards Francesca Vanin and Karoline Alexander.

HOLY CROSS VERSUS THE CAA: Northeastern is the only Colonial Athletic Assosciation team Holy Cross will face this season. This will be the first season that the Huskies will play as a member of the CAA. They had been a member of the America East Conference for 25 years.

Other Colonial Athletic Association teams include Delaware, Drexel, George Mason, Georgia State, Hofstra, James Madison, Old Dominion, Towson, UNC-Wilmington, Virginia Commonwealth and William & Mary.

SIXTEEN 20-WIN SEASONS: The Holy Cross women's basketball program has totaled 18 twenty-win seasons its 31 years of existence, and has amassed 16 twenty-win seasons while a NCAA Divsion I member. The past 16 twenty-win seasons have also come under the direction of head coach Bill Gibbons. Gibbons has led the Crusaders to more victories than any other coach in Holy Cross history during his 20-year tenure. He has won 20 or more games in 10 of the last 11 seasons and in 16 seasons overall.

400-CLUB: Bill Gibbons currently ranks 34th on the list of winningest active Division I coaches (by percent) and 36th by number of wins, according to the 2005 NCAA Women's Basketball Record Book. He is the winningest head basketball coach in Holy Cross history and is the second-winningest coach - of any sport - in school history, behind former baseball coach Jack Barry, who totaled 616 wins from 1921-1960.

HEAD COACH Bill Gibbons: Bill Gibbons is in his 21st season at the helm of the Holy Cross women's basketball program. He has led the Crusaders to 10 Patriot League Championships in the last 15 years and has also led the team to 12 postseason appearances (11 NCAA Tournaments and one WNIT) in his 20 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 Northeast.

The sixth coach of the women's program at Holy Cross, Gibbons has enjoyed the longest tenure in this position. He has led Holy Cross women's basketball 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, who had the most wins (357) in the Crusader men's basketball program, and now with more than 400 wins under his belt, Gibbons is the second-winningest coach in Holy Cross Athletics history, behind former baseball coach Jack Barry. In 2003, Gibbons was inducted into the New England College Basketball Hall of Fame at the University of Rhode Island. He currently ranks 34th on the list of winningest active Division I coaches (by percent) and 36th by number of wins, according to the 2005 NCAA Women's Basketball Record Book.

During Gibbons' 20-year reign, three players have earned Patriot League Female Scholar Athlete of the Year honors: Amy O'Brien `98, Kathy Courtney `97 and Ann Lambiotte `91, and four players have earned Patriot League Women's Basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year honors: Lambiotte (1991), Courtney (1997), O'Brien (1998, 1999) and Lisa Andrews (2005). His teams have consistently ranked among the best at Holy Cross for overall team GPA, while maintaining their success on the court as well. Last season, Holy Cross was one of just three schools in the 64-team NCAA Tournament field with a graduation rate of 100 percent. The Crusader program has produced four Academic All-Americans and more than 10 Academic All-District picks.

2004-2005 HONORS: Four players from the Holy Cross women's basketball team were named to the 2005 Patriot League All-Conference Team at the end of last season. Since graduated seniors Lisa Andrews (Concord, Mass.) and Maggie Fontana (Barrington, Ill.) earned First Team All-League accolades, and current sophomores Laura Aloisi (Nashua, N.H.) and Ashley McLaughlin (Andover, Mass.) were selected to the All-Rookie Team.

Andrews, who was also voted as the 2005 Patriot League Tournament Most Valuable Player, was named the 2005 Patriot League Women's Basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year. The six-foot-three center started all 31 games for the Crusaders last season and led the team in points (396), points per game (12.8), field goal percent (.471), field goals made (162) and blocks (55). She tied for first in rebounds (168) and was second on the team in rebounds per game (5.4). Andrews also shot .727 percent from the free throw line, which was third-best on the HC squad.

In addition, Fontana was named the Samantha Vellaccio Award winner, which is presented annually to the varsity women's basketball player who best exemplifies the mission of Holy Cross both on and off the court. Fontana finished her career with 1,556 points (sixth all-time at Holy Cross, 10th all-time in Patriot League), 767 rebounds (fourth all-time at Holy Cross, 11th all-time PL), 420 assists (seventh all-time at Holy Cross, eighth all-time PL) and 251 steals (third all-time at Holy Cross, 10th all-time PL). She is one of only five players in Holy Cross women's basketball history to collect more than 1,500 points and 750 rebounds in their career.

Further, seven players on the team were named to the 2005 Patriot League Academic Honor Roll last season. Since-graduated senior Caitlin Agostinacchio (Bellmore, N.Y.) and current junior Brittany Keil (Sparta, N.J.) were among just four women's basketball players throughout the League to earn 4.0 grade point averages during the Spring semester. Andrews, Fontana, Jessica Conte, Kaitlin Foley and Sarah Placek were the other Crusaders who earned all-academic league accolades.

HOME IS WHERE THE HART IS: Holy Cross has an all-time record of 292-76 (.793) at the Hart Center, and is just eight home wins away from its 300th victory in the 30-year old building.

The program's 100th win at the Hart Center came on January 9, 1988 when the Crusaders defeated the University of New Hampshire, 86-67. It's 200th win at the Hart Center came on February 5, 1997 when the Crusaders defeated Army, 92-59.

Holy Cross has played 114 home games since then, winning 92 of them (.807). The Crusaders' best home single-season record since its 200th win was a 15-1 mark (.937) during the 1999-00 season. Last year, the Crusaders went 12-3 at the Hart Center.

Holy Cross has posted a record of 50-16 (.757) at home over the course of the last five seasons, and was 10-0 when playing Patriot League opponents on the Hart Center floor last year.

HC SIGNS FOUR TO NATIONAL LETTERS OF INTENT: Head coach Bill Gibbons announced this week that four student-athletes have signed national letters of intent to attend Holy Cross in the fall of 2006. Tayana Carper (Shrewsbury, Mass.) of Shrewsbury High School, Christy Cushnie (Vienna, Va.) of James Madison High School, Briana McFadden (Wheaton, Md.) of Good Counsel High School, and Bethany O'Dell (Lincoln, R.I.) of Lincoln High School, will all be donning the purple and white next season.

Carper is a six-foot forward and will serve as team captain for the Colonials this season. The local product from Shrewsbury, Mass., was named to the Telegram & Gazette Division I all-star and Mid-Wach A League all-star teams, as well as earning team most valuable player honors, as she led Shrewsbury to the district championship and Massachusetts state semi-finals a year ago.

The two-time National Honor Society member has played AAU basketball for Team Massachusetts for the past four years.

Cushnie was named first team all-district and second team all-region, while leading the team in scoring with a 15.0 points per game average last year. She earned second team all-district honors as a sophomore while leading James Madison to the district championship. For her efforts, she was also an all-Metro honorable mention (Washington, D.C.).

The five-foot-nine guard has also played two seasons for the Fairfax Stars AAU team, which finished ninth in the Junior Nationals last year.

McFadden is coming off a junior campaign in which she helped Good Counsel to a national ranking of 15 and rank of fifth in the East, according to USA Today. The five-foot-10 McFadden averaged 12.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.9 assists last season. She finished her junior campaign as the team's second leading scorer for the second consecutive year, and led the team in both three-point field goal (40.0 percent) and free throw (80.0 percent) percent.

McFadden was named first team all-Maryland Gazette, first team all-Montgomery County, first team all-Metro Examiner, second team all-WCAC, and all-Metro honorable mention (Washington, D.C.) last year.

In addition, McFadden averaged 23.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.4 assists this past summer, while leading her AAU team (Maryland Sports X-treme) to the sweet sixteen round of the Junior Nationals.

O'Dell is coming off a junior campaign in which she averaged 24.0 points per game, 10.0 rebounds per game, 7.0 assists per game and 5.0 steals per game, while leading Lincoln to a 21-6 record and its first-ever Division 2 state championship. The three-time all-state, all-league, and all-division selection has already set a new all-time scoring record at Lincoln High School.

She has averaged a double-double each year of her high school career (22.0 points per game, 10.0 rebounds per game) and is a three-time Street and Smith magazine honorable mention All-America.

ON TELEVISION: WCTR-TV3 will broadcast the January 16 game against Duke and the January 24 game against Colgate live from the Hart Center this season. Available in more than 20 communities in Central Massachusetts, WCTR-TV3 reaches more than 129,000 homes in the area.

ON THE RADIO: Tonight's game will not be broadcast on the radio.

ON THE INTERNET:Tonight's game can be heard on Jeremy Lechan will call all of the play-by-play action. In addition, each game will be linked from the Holy Cross website. Other information on Holy Cross basketball and all 26 other varsity sports is also available through the new Holy Cross Athletics website at:

THE HOLY CROSS WOMEN'S BASKETBALL SHOW: Tune in to WCTR TV-3 for the Holy Cross Women's Basketball Show with Head Coach Bill Gibbons. Each week, WCTR TV-3 Sports Director Kevin Shea will sit down with Gibbons and members of this year's coaching staff and team and talk about all things Holy Cross basketball, and the Crusaders quest for the 2005-2006 Patriot League Championship and a bid to the NCAA Tournament.

INFORMATION AND CREDENTIALS: Media personnel wishing to cover Holy Cross home games should contact Brianne Mallaghan in the Holy Cross Athletic Media Relations Office at 508-792-2780 or via email at at least one week in advance. Working press and photo passes will be left at the will-call window located near the main entrance of the Hart Recreation Center.

INTERVIEWS: Interviews with Head Coach Bill Gibbons, his staff and Holy Cross players can be set up by contacting Brianne Mallaghan in the Holy Cross Athletic Media Relations Office at (508) 793-2780 or via email at Arrangements for interviews should be made atleast 24 hours in advance. Coach Gibbons is generally available each weekday morning during the season, as well as before and after practices. Player interviews will be arranged subject to the individual student-athlete's academic responsibilities.

PRESS SERVICES: Game notes and programs are available in the press room one hour before each game. Halftime and final statistics and a running play-by-play will be available about 15 minutes following the game.

POSTGAME PROCEDURES: The Holy Cross women's basketball locker room is closed to the media. Members of the media should submit player interview requests to Brianne Mallaghan, the Holy Cross women's basketball contact, by the five-minute mark of the second half. Players and Coaches will be available for postgame interviews following a 10-minute cooling off period after the game.

RADIO AND TRANSMITTING: Holy Cross has installed phone lines which can be rented by a visiting radio station. The cost for rental is $75.00 for commercial stations and $50.00 for student stations.

HOLY CROSS ON THE INTERNET: For the most updated information on the Crusaders, check out the Holy Cross website. The site contains statistics for every Crusader basketball game, as well as cumulative stats, rosters, schedules, weekly notes and photo archives. Log on to