By Meredith Cook
Special to GoHolyCross.com
The 2011 Holy Cross field hockey team has made one thing clear; that the 2010 season will not be repeated. With second-year head coach Zowie Tucker back at the helm, this year's squad has put in the necessary work in the offseason to train and prepare for a completely fresh slate. "We're expecting to take all that we learned from last season and in the offseason and use it to our advantage this season," said Tucker. "We're not sitting back and letting things happen. We're looking to increase our fundamental skills as well as our game tactics and play smart field hockey. Our defense is going to be huge for us but I think we're also in a good position to score some goals."
Tucker's 2011 squad features 15 returning letterwinners, including seven starters, as well as six newcomers, who are her first full recruiting class. Two seniors, Jamie Caniglia (Wayne, Pa.) and Rachael Miers (Langhorne, Pa.) will hold co-captain duties while junior Megan Bourne (Lake Forest, Ill.) will support them as vice captain. "I am really happy with the leadership shown by Caniglia, Miers and Bourne," continued Tucker. "All possess a different leadership style and will step up to the challenge of managing the team and communicating with them on a daily basis. They're making sure our (the coaching staff's) game concept is portrayed every day in practice."
Caniglia returns as the team's top offensive player coming out of 2010, having scored two goals and collecting two assists. "Jamie is a standout player," said Tucker. "I see her on the forward line right now where she is tenacious but also plays really good defense."
Miers will be the leader in the midfield, looking to bounce back from a down offensive year in 2010. "Rachael is doing a great job in the midfield for us," stated Tucker. "She's been influential in our ball development and really understands the game exceptionally well."
Bourne saw time in every game, including 10 starts last season and finished with an assist. "Megan is an extremely good example for us," commented Tucker. "She is a workhorse and also has the ability to be a goal scorer on our corner unit."
Another senior that has important leadership capabilities will be senior Kirsten Walther (Landenberg, Pa.), who will take charge of the defensive side of the ball. Walther started 14 games as a back in 2010, including 13 games in a row. "Kirsten will man the back field for us this season," said Tucker. "She's a seasoned veteran and possesses great composure over the ball."
A strong duo of sophomores will also have an impact on the field as Jillian Caffrey (Yorktown Heights, N.Y.) and Lindsay MacPhail (Goffstown, N.H.) will return as starters in 2011. Caffrey started 15 games as a freshman, taking 11 shots total while MacPhail was a second team All-Patriot League selection and finished the season with two assists in 16 starts. "They understand our game concepts very well," explains Tucker. "They will have an important role in controlling the midfield and the backfield. Caffrey is probably one of our most versatile players and along with Miers, we can see these two playing any position we set them in."
With Caniglia moving into the forward position and an emphasis set on scoring more goals, three other players will add to the team's offensive spark in 2011. Junior Kelsey Horton (Poughkeepsie, N.Y.) and sophomore Carly Grimaudo (Hopewell Junction, N.Y.) have impressed the coaching staff in the offseason and will look to attack. Horton made 10 starts on the forward line in her sophomore season while Grimaudo recorded a goal and an assist before being forced out of play due to injury. "The greatest assets these two bring to our offense are their quick feet," said Tucker. "They're able to influence the ball and give us the opportunity to intercept and counter attack." Newcomer Molly Feit (Acton, Mass.) has also impressed on offense. "She has the ability to see the field very well," said Tucker. "She has a great instinct to move the ball forward and attack."
Along with Walther's senior leadership in the backfield will be sophomores Kelly Burke (Walpole, Mass.) and Jess Dodakian (Shrewsbury, Mass.). Burke was a staple on defense in her first season, starting in all 17 contests while Dodakian has improved greatly in the offseason. "Kelly's speed is a huge advantage for us," said Tucker. "Jess also will add depth for us there." Two freshmen will also provide an instant impact as Kellie Walsh (Andover, Mass.) and Mackenzie Peet (Rehoboth Beach, Del.) have impressed early on will vie for time on defense.
With only one goalie throughout the 2010 season, Tucker has brought in two other potential netminders who will compete for the starting spot. Junior Kelly Sotsky (Wayne, N.J.) was the team's goalie last season, where she made 107 saves. Freshmen Kat Matchett (Maple Glen, Pa.) and Nina Batt (Marion, Mass.) have been added to the mix as well. "Competition with the goalies has made a huge difference in our training sessions," said Tucker. "Kat is a force to be reckoned with and has a great presence inside the net. Her communication with the entire field makes her a very good player. Sotsky has increased her knowledge of the game and her save-ability in the offseason, the competition has been great for her."
Tucker's first recruiting class and the way she's changing her players is one of the biggest keys to success for this season. "The biggest thing I see in my kids is their athleticism, agility and quick feet," continued Tucker. "The freshman class has the ability to compete for starting spots right away and have a very good foundation for us to work with. Everyone that will play on the field this year has a presence and a different leadership quality that will lead us to success."
The 2011 season starts with a split of two home games and two away games. Starting off at Quinnipiac, the team then hosts west-coast opponent California-Davis, locally based Harvard and wraps up the first week in September at Boston College. "I think this schedule will make us compete and give us the chance to compete well," said Tucker. "All of our games are on Astroturf this year and we have a brand new facility here which we're very excited about."
The rest of September will feature local non-conference contests with Siena, Georgetown, Sacred Heart, New Hampshire, Fairfield and Dartmouth. "I think all of our non-conference contests will be very good preparation for league play this year," commented Tucker.
Patriot League action kicks off on Oct. 1 against Bucknell on the road. American, Colgate and Lehigh will play in Worcester while the Crusaders will travel to Lafayette for their other Patriot League road contest.
With a clean slate and instinct to be the best they can be, the 2011 Crusaders field hockey squad will know that they will attack the schedule with the force that Tucker has implemented on them and in turn set themselves up for an impressive campaign.