Aug. 15, 2008
By Michelle Bradley
Special to GoHolyCross.com
The 2008 field hockey team will be embracing the phrase "New Era" with new head coach Alicia Hawk and assistant coach Susie Whelan taking over the program upon the retirement of Meg Galligan, who led the Crusaders for 23 years.
"There has been a lot of history and tradition established in this program and we are looking to build on it, as well as taking it and making it our own," said Hawk.
Hawk also embraces her new role. "It's an adjustment," said Hawk. "I am embracing the head coaching position as a leader - leading the players and leading the team."
For this fall, much is expected of the squad as it continues the Holy Cross history of success as a top program in the Patriot League and the Northeast Region.
Graduating five starters from last season, the Crusaders return 14 letterwinners including the two-time Patriot League Goalkeeper of the Year, senior captain Erin Singleton.
"As a coach, it feels great looking at the roster knowing we have an extremely flexible team," said Hawk. "There will be a lot of competition to fill those spots, and we'll be able to adjust the lineups to fulfill our needs with a lot more depth and flexibility than in recent years."
Holy Cross also welcomes five incoming freshmen to the program. All five freshmen are coming in with great stick skills and flexibility. Sofia Spanos, Rachael Miers and Jamie Caniglia will be added to the attacking midfield and forward lines, while Amanda McGavick and Kirsten Walther will add depth as powerful backs.
"We are all looking forward to welcoming the newcomers," said Hawk. "The returning players know they will add competitiveness and make the team stronger. I know they will add depth to the lineup and bring excellent athleticism and talent."
There will be four strong attackers returning to the lineup this season. Senior captain Kristin Schulz, junior Katie Talbert, junior Courtney Callahan and sophomore Kara Gonnerman will all add attacking momentum to the traditional Holy Cross passing game, helping set up scoring opportunities.
"We will have great depth and competition for forward spots this season," said Hawk. "We are looking to continue the tradition of multiple point scorers."
Schulz will be a strong forward for the Crusaders with her ability to set up scoring opportunities intertwined with great energy for the game.
Callahan returns as one of the Crusaders top impact players on the midfield and forward lines, embracing her role as a dangerous attacker and improved defensive player. A solid scoring-type forward, Talbert will pair up well with Schulz up front for scoring opportunities.
Ranked second on the team in scoring last season, Gonnerman tallied five goals and three assists for 13 points. Her play-making skills and improvement in the transition game will help her continue in her role as a young impact player and starting forward.
Senior captain Carolyn Connelly returns to the squad, bringing composure and vision to the midfield, where she will be the key communicator and pacesetter. Her strong passing game and good hustle on the field will provide strength to the midfield lineup.
Sophomore Alanna Sikorski and junior Katie Aylward will continue to be a powerful attacking pair. They will offer great flexibility in the overlapping attack opportunities and help minimize opponent penetration with solid defense. Sophomore Brittany Gildea will add depth and flexibility to complete a dangerous midfield group alongside junior Nora Happny who saw some action last season.
Senior captain Jessie Cullen will bring great work ethic and leadership to the backfield. After starting in all 19 games last season and recording 40 interceptions, Cullen will provide solid defense with great physical intensity. Junior Kaitlyn Barnes, a starter since her freshman year, will continue to be one of the team's leaders in both tackles and interceptions. The team will look to Barnes to regain ball possession and help in quick transition to attack. Alongside Cullen and Barnes will be sophomore Breezy Rush, who will build upon last year's experiences after appearing in nine games.
Returning are Singleton and junior Kelly Casey. Singleton, who was named the Patriot League Goalkeeper of the Year for the second year in a row in 2007, recorded a 2.72 goals against average and a .752 save percentage last year. Casey appeared in eight games last season and recorded ad 2.42 goals against average. Both goalies' seasoned experience and success will maintain the consistency that Holy Cross goaltending is known for.
"We are very fortunate to have two extremely talented goalies in our program," said Hawk. "Casey and Singleton will continue to support each other in their roles as well as competing for play time. They both will have great opportunity to play in the fall."
The Crusaders will start 2008 competition with an exhibition game against the top collegiate team in England, Durham University, on Aug. 23.
The regular season opens with tradition rival Fairfield, followed by Harvard, Boston College, Providence and Yale. Holy Cross will then play New Hampshire, Siena, Quinnipiac and Dartmouth. Other non-conference games later in the season come against Stanford, Columbia, Syracuse, Brown and Maine.
Stanford rejoins the Crusader schedule this season, in the first meeting between the schools since the 2000 NCAA play-in game. Holy Cross will also play Syracuse for the first time since 2002 and Maine for the first time since 2004.
"We are excited to have past competitors back in our schedule this fall," said Hawk. "Our history of competition against them is well matched and will show how the sport has continued to grow these past years."
The Crusaders open Patriot League play at American on Oct. 4. Holy Cross will then face Lafayette at home, Colgate and Lehigh on the road, and Bucknell at home.