Special to GoHolyCross.com
The stage is set for great season on the turf as second year head field hockey coach Alicia Hawk welcomes back 13 players from last season's squad, including five seniors. "Determination and leadership are going to be key factors in reaching our goals this season," said Hawk. "And the upperclassmen are very motivated."
This fall Holy Cross will seek and contend for another Patriot League Tournament appearance. The Crusaders last qualified for the tournament in 2006, falling to American in the finals. "The players will understand early on that each game is critical to our success and they know that playing to win each game is the key to qualifying for the Patriot League Tournament," said Hawk.
After graduating four starters from last season, including three-time Patriot League Goalkeeper of the Year Erin Singleton, the 2009 squad will be looking for leadership from its five seniors. "The seniors will offer their teammates great maturity and perspective as they have experienced both success in 2006 and great challenges in 2007 and 2008," said Hawk. "They will be leaders both on and off the field showing great physical and mental toughness."
Holy Cross also welcomes seven incoming freshmen to the program. Newcomers Emily Allen, Megan Bourne, Courtney Downes, Kelsey Horton, Lizzie McManus, Ali Shutt and Kelly Sotsky will join the Crusaders. "Practices will be very productive with the addition of such a great class," remarked Hawk. "They will help establish depth and help contribute on the field early on."
Returning senior starter Courtney Callahan and senior Nora Happny, alongside sophomores Rachael Miers and Sophie Spanos, will be expected to lead on the front line. Last season Callahan helped lead the Crusaders' offensive attack, scoring four goals and recording two assists. The returners, combined with the newcomers, will add speed to the traditional Holy Cross passing game. "We will have great depth and competition from the forward spots this season," said Hawk. "We will depend on Courtney and Rachael as our more seasoned attackers to continue finding the net and penetrating the attacking zone with speed and excellent stick work."
Juniors Alanna Sikorski and Kara Gonnerman, along with sophomores Jamie Caniglia and Amanda McGavick, return to the squad, bringing great hustle, composure and vision to the midfield. Together they are strong and excellent at creating attacking opportunities while maintaining a solid defensive line and minimizing midfield turnovers. "This is a very dangerous line," said Hawk. "Everyone on this line can anticipate and intercept dangerous opportunities by the opponent while transitioning to attack very quickly. Their overlapping game is going to be a big asset to our offense this season." Last season, Gonnerman was the second leading scorer for the Crusaders, totaling seven goals, while Sikorski scored three goals and led the team with six assists.
Seniors Kaitlyn Barnes and Katie Aylward will bring great work ethic and leadership to the backfield. Both players started all 18 games last season and recorded a total of 117 interceptions. They will provide solid defense with great physical intensity. Alongside Barnes and Aylward will be returning junior starter Breezy Rush and sophomore Kirsten Walther, who will build upon last year's experiences. "What is nice about this line is that they've now been working together for a few seasons," said Hawk. "They will be able to play off each other much more intuitively."
Holy Cross continues to develop excellent goalkeepers. This season there will be two players for the position. Senior Kelly Casey, who was out last season due to injury, returns with a great sense of commitment and tactical experience. Newcomer Kelly Sotsky will transition into the collegiate game and contribute with great agility. "They will both be competitive and confident in the cage," commented Hawk.
Following a home exhibition game versus Brown (Aug. 29), Holy Cross will open the regular season on the road against Connecticut (Sept. 3), a team which advanced to the NCAA Tournament and finished the 2008 season ranked fifth in the final National Field Hockey Coaches Association poll. "Adding UConn to our schedule this year was very important to the development of our players and our program," said Hawk. "It will give us a great opportunity for a strong start to the season." Two days later, the Crusaders open the home portion of their schedule against Ivy League rival Harvard (Sept. 5).
Holy Cross returns to the road for a contest at Boston College (Sept. 6), which finished last season No. 15 in the final NFHCA poll. After a week off, the Crusaders host Dartmouth (Sept. 13) and Siena (Sept. 16), then hit the road to face New Hampshire (Sept. 19), followed by another game on the Hart Turf Field against Yale (Sept. 20). The Crusaders round out the month of September with a road game at Quinnipiac (Sept. 24) and a pair of home contests with Fairfield (Sept. 26) and Bryant (Sept. 30). "Bryant is another great addition to our schedule," commented Hawk. "A good local matchup will be important as we prepare for our Patriot League opener against American."
Holy Cross opens its conference schedule in October by playing host to defending Patriot League champion American (Oct. 4), which finished No. 18 in the final NFHCA poll last season. The Crusaders then entertain Maine (Oct. 5), before heading to Lafayette (Oct. 11) and taking on Columbia in Hamden, Conn. (Oct. 12). Holy Cross wraps up its home slate with contests against Colgate (Oct. 17) and Lehigh (Oct. 24), then travels to end the regular season at Brown (Oct. 27) and at Bucknell (Oct. 31).
The Patriot League Tournament is scheduled for Nov. 7-8 on the campus of the regular season champion. The top four teams in the final regular season standings will advance to the conference tournament.