By Jim Wrobel
Special to GoHolyCross.com
The 2011 Holy Cross women's lacrosse team will be looking to continue the success it saw at the end of the 2010 season (6-11 overall, 3-3 Patriot League) as the Crusaders won three of their last four Patriot League games and qualified for the conference tournament for the first time in two seasons, as they were narrowly defeated by top seed Lehigh by a 9-8 score in the semifinals.
The Crusaders have eight of 12 starters back from last season, including three who earned 2010 All-Patriot League honors. The Crusaders also have seven of their top 10 point producers back from last season. Holy Cross returns 19 overall letterwinners and with the addition of nine freshmen, the Crusaders will be expected to compete for the program's third Patriot League title.
Ninth-year head coach and the program's all-time winningest coach Stephanie Ridolfi is very happy with how the team played in the fall season and knows the players are excited to start the spring season. "We had a very successful fall season," said Ridolfi. "I think that really got everyone super excited for the spring season. From the moment they stepped on the field in the fall, the team worked really well together. Everyone showed up ready to go in the fall and because of that everyone is really pumped for the spring season and can't wait to get started."
The Crusaders gained a lot of confidence by winning three of the last four Patriot League games and earning a bid to the tournament, which Ridolfi expects to carry over to this season. "We turned things around in April," said Ridolfi. "The team knew that we needed to win those games and they stepped up and did just that. Everyone also learned that if we would have won the games earlier in the season we would have had a better road to winning a title. Those three wins are a key to this year because we know we can win big games. But with that said, there is no reason why we can't play like that the entire season."
The Crusaders traditionally have a motto for each season and this year it is "team." "This year we wanted to just stick with 'team' as our motto," said Ridolfi. "That started in our fall season. When we say "team" we really mean it so that is going to be the motto for the season. It is a way to say that we are a team and let's do this together."
Holy Cross also demonstrated that it could win close games last year as the Crusaders went 3-3 in games decided by two goals or less, including a 14-12 overtime victory over Fairfield. "Going from losing close games to then winning close games builds character and will lead us to winning even more close games because we keep on adding to the motivation and success we have had," said Ridolfi. "The team is tired of losing those one-goal games. They work too hard to lose those games."
The Crusaders, who play eight home games this season, were outstanding in the first season at Holy Cross Field in 2010. The Crusaders recorded a 5-2 record on the field as Holy Cross won its last four home games of the season and went 3-0 in Patriot League home contests.
The Crusaders will be led by senior captains Annie Boylan (Andover, Mass.), Amy Martin (Bloomfield, Mich.) and Meg O'Leary (Longmeadow, Mass.). "We have three great captains that have year after year really stressed a good attitude to the team," said Ridolfi. "They have really been tough on each other in a good way. The captains will be the backbone of the team. I think they are really going to carry this team to a successful season."
The nine seniors of Boylan, Katelyn Gettens (Concord, N.H.), Maryalice Gill (Nashua, N.H.), Martin, Mary Milley (Fairfax, Va.), Julie Murphy (Bernardsville, N.J.), O'Leary, Cassie Rudden (Hopkinton, Mass.) and Meredith Stevens (Duxbury, Mass.) will be looking to use their experience to lead the team to a conference title. "This class was happy to make the tournament last year but they know they can do even better. The nine seniors have the attitude that we can win the title, which will be the true motivator for the seniors."
The junior class of Kayla DiBari (Holderness, N.H.), Catherine Furman (Garden City, N.Y.), Caitie Shea (Port Jefferson Station, N.Y.) and Kat Sutton (Saratoga Springs, N.Y.) will be looking to prepare for leadership positions, while sophomores Maddie Carrellas (Middletown, R.I.), Sara Cox (Chatham, N.J.), Sarah Daly (Ridgewood, N.J.), Tina Marino (Hillsborough, N.J.), Caroline Pedlow (Charlotte, N.C.) and Taylor Zebrowski (Verona, N.J.) will be looking to make it to the Patriot League Tournament in both of their first two seasons.
The freshman class of Christina Amendola (Manorville, N.Y.), Corinne Caracausa (North Wales, Pa.), Julia Cowan (Wilmette, Ill.), Seton Hartnett (Westfield, N.J.), Sara Hennessey (Winchester, Mass.), Maddie Parisi (Westport, Conn.), Kelly Reers (Glen Rock, N.J.), Maggie Reichenbach (Manhasset, N.Y.) and Sarah Weber (Summit, N.J.) are very talented and are expected to contribute right away.
A big strength of last year's team was its defense, which is expected to also be very strong this season. Last season the Crusaders had the third best team goals against average (10.82) in the Patriot League. "Our defense will be one of our strongest points this season," said Ridolfi. "A lot of players can contribute to our defense and that should be a strength."
Martin, who was the 2010 Patriot League Goalie of the Year and also earned All-Patriot League Tournament accolades, returns in net for the Crusaders. She enter the season fourth in the nation by current players in career minutes played with 2813:19 and is fourth in career saves with 489. Martin also enters the season fourth all-time at Holy Cross in career saves as she recorded a career-best 181 saves last season which were the second most in the league. Martin ranked fifth nationally for saves and fourth nationally for saves per game (10.65), while she led the Patriot League with a career-best .503 save percentage and was ninth nationally. She was also third in the league with a 10.86 goals against average and tied the all-time record as she was named the Patriot League Goalie of the Week four times.
With the graduation of Katie Gardner, Megan Fenton and Ali Baird, the Crusaders will be looking for players to provide an offensive spark at attack. "We lost several goal scorers from last year who will be hard to replace, but we feel with the addition of our freshmen and the upperclassmen stepping up we will be able to score goals," said Ridolfi. "If all of our attack players bring an attitude to a game that they need to score one goal then all of those goals add up."
Zebrowski is expected to be a force at attack this season as she had an outstanding freshman season in 2010 as her 11 assists were the most by a Holy Cross freshman since 2004, while her 24 goals and 35 points were the most by a Crusader freshman since 2007. She was named the Patriot League Rookie of the Week twice, while she was second on the team in assists, and third in goals and points.
The Crusaders return their entire starting midfield, which is a veteran group of players who will be a huge key to the success of the season. "We feel that our midfielders are faster than last year and we thought we had real good speed last year," said Ridolfi. "We have a lot of midfielders that have a ton of confidence and that is very important. Games can be won or lost in the midfield. So with the confidence, knowledge and speed we have in the midfield that will be one of our major strengths of the team."
Sutton, who earned 2010 second team All-Patriot League accolades, led last year's team with 36 goals and was second with 42 points. She also enters the season with the third longest goal scoring streak in the nation with a goal in 29 straight games. O'Leary, who is a two-time All-Patriot League member and earned 2010 Patriot League Tournament honors, has 57 goals and 29 assists for 86 career points as she has started in all 49 games that Holy Cross has played in the last three seasons. She also enters the season third all-time at Holy Cross with 44 career caused turnovers. Boylan, who enters the season fourth all-time at Holy Cross with 104 career draw controls, has also played in all 49 games. She has 24 goals and 18 assists for 42 career points.
Carrellas, who recorded 10 goals and five assists for 15 points as a freshman, is expected to have a strong sophomore season as last year she ranked third on the team with 15 caused turnovers and was tied for third on the team with 18 draw controls. She was named the Patriot League Rookie of the Week once and was tied for first on the team with two game-winning goals. Furman and Milley will also be key in the midfield. Furman tied for third on the team with a career-best 20 ground balls last season and Milley brings senior experience to the field.
Despite the graduation of defensive leader MaryKate Finnegan, the Holy Cross defense is expected to be a strength of the team as it returns two starters from a season ago. Gettens and Cox each played in 16 games last year. Ridolfi will also be looking for players to step up on the defense.
With a group of veteran players who have a lot of big game experience and a talented base of underclassmen, the 2011 Crusaders are set to make a run at the Patriot League title.