By Anna Poulter-Hendrickson
Special to GoHolyCross.com
After finishing the 2009 season with seven wins, the most wins since 2000, Holy Cross women's soccer coach Darren Gallagher is looking to build off and improve on the success of last season."I think it was a different mentality and different expectations were set," said Gallagher about the 2009 season. "Whenever there is a change, there is a fresh impetus and people buy in to that. They took on board the things I was asking of them, which basically centered around discipline, work ethic and adhering to a system and playing that system well. That ethos seemed to serve us well all season."
Gallagher is going to bring the same philosophy to the field again in 2010 and expects to see even better results. "We have brought in players that can definitely help us and will improve the overall quality of the team." Gallagher welcomes nine newcomers to the team and returns 15 from last year's squad.
Gallagher's team of 24 will look to find more ways to get the ball in the back of the net. Despite finishing the season third in the Patriot League with 25 goals, the Crusaders were shut out seven times, including two 0-0 overtime ties. "There were many games where we had a lot of possession and it was excruciating at times that we were not able to put the ball in the back of the net," recalls Gallagher. "We have Shelby coming back. A fully fit Shelby Stand is arguably the best player in the conference." Stand led the Crusaders with 10 goals a year ago. "Our new additions have added pace and quality in wide areas. This was an area that we needed to improve on and I feel we have done so."
When the dust settles and the Crusaders have played their last regular season game of the year, Gallagher expects the program to be preparing for the Patriot League tournament for the first time since the 2000 season. "We have a good enough squad to make the playoffs," foresees Gallagher. "We have improved the overall quality and there is no reason why we cannot go on and take that next step in our progression."
Holy Cross has tabbed its four seniors, Jenna Campagna, Mary Ferketic, Lauren Wright and Stand, to serve as captains for the 2010 season. Gallagher knows that these four have the qualities to lead the Crusaders on and off the field. "They need to be there pushing the younger players and making sure that they understand what is required of a Holy Cross women's soccer player," said Gallagher about the captains. "The people that we have selected to be captains are born leaders. They are very team orientated and are inspirational in their work ethic and overall behavior."
Stand returns to lead the Holy Cross attack on offense. A year ago, Stand led the Crusaders with 10 goals and 20 points. She completed the season second in the Patriot League in shots per game, goals per game, points per game and game-winning goals. Her 10 single-season goals tied for fourth on the Holy Cross single-season record list, her 51 career points tied her for seventh all-time at Holy Cross and her 22 career goals are sixth. "It is staggering to think that she was only 75 percent last season and still managed to collect all of the accolades that she did," Gallagher says about Stand.
Stand wrapped up the 2009 season by being named to the first team All-Patriot League for the second time in her career, she was selected as a member of the NEWISA All-New England second team and named to the NSCAA NCAA Division I women's All-Mid-Atlantic Region third team. "People talk about Shelby's technical ability and her awareness on the field, she also brings an enthusiasm and excitement to the game," says Gallagher. Stand led the Crusaders with three game-winning goals in 2009 and scored on one of Holy Cross' two penalty kicks. "She does things in the final third that gets people off their seats. You always know that you have an opportunity to score when Shelby is on the field. On top of that she inspires her teammates. Not just in games, but in the way that she trains and conducts herself off the field." In fact, Stand's return to the field after an injury filled 2007 season is testament to her dedication to the sport and to Holy Cross.
Wright will make her way back onto the playing field after missing 2009 due to injury. Wright, who has started in every game of her career, looks to make an immediate impact when she returns to the field. "Having Lauren means the return of a seasoned, skillful and versatile athlete," said Gallagher about Wright's return. "It was a big loss last season to not have Lauren. We are excited to have Lauren back for her undoubted talents on the field and her ability to guide and motivate others around her. Lauren is a great person and loves this program, loves Holy Cross."
Ferketic earned a starting spot in goal last season, starting in 14 games and finishing with a 4-7-3 record. "Last season Mary emerged as the starter and then she had a wonderful second half of the season for us," said Gallagher. "We expect more of the same from Mary. She is a senior and a captain and we expect that leadership to inspire her teammates to great success. Mary is a superb goalkeeper and we are lucky to have her."
Campagna, a member of a Holy Cross defense which posted a 1.36 goals against average on the season and recorded six shutouts, will serve as a captain in her final season. "Jenna epitomizes everything that makes a good captain," said Gallagher. "She is very vocal, she has high standards at training. She is on top of people if they are not doing what they need to be doing and not working enough. Jenna is a very selfless person and puts the team and the progression of the group in front of herself. Jenna will continue to be a superb role model."
Holy Cross' junior class will play an important role in the success of the 2010 season. Micaela Collins, Kelsey Dillon, Liz Early, Michaela Morgan and Biz Shenk combined for 64 starts last season, with Early, Colllins and Morgan seeing time in every game. "That class was very involved last year and was vital to us," says Gallagher about the junior class. "They play a variety of positions and they certainly make up the back bone of the team. My expectations are high for those players."
Four of the five juniors play defense or midfield, with Early being the only forward. "I am excited about the way those players performed last year and would like more of the same this year." Early finished the season second on the team with 11 points, despite making just nine starts. "Liz is a very talented player," said Gallagher. "She holds the ball up extremely well and plays that back pressure role for us. When she is on and catches fire, she is very hard to play against."
Gallagher's sophomore class of Ashlyn Angell, Hannah Earner, Maura Fox, Maggie McGoldrick, Kellie Wiederhold and Danielle Wasserman will continue to provide the Crusaders with much needed depth on the field. Fox finished her rookie campaign leading all Holy Cross freshmen with three goals for six points, while McGoldrick started in all 19 games on defense. "Maura and Maggie started all 19 games of their freshman year," said Gallagher. "They were challenged early to take leadership roles on the team and both contributed a great deal to the tactical growth of the program. For that I expect that they will be an integral part of our success this year."
Gallagher expects to see even more success out of the sophomore class this season. "The other sophomores came on in the later part of the season and I expect them to work extremely hard to break through." Wiederhold earned starts against Yale and Lehigh, while Earner made six appearances and Angell had one. Wasserman will return to the field after being sidelined by an injury last season. "There is a lot of talent there and they are important players, it would please me to find that one of those players has found a role within the starting 11." Gallagher expects Angell to be one of the sophomores to step up her game. "Ashlyn had a good spring and I expect her to come in and compete."
The Crusaders' first recruiting class under Gallagher includes nine players with diverse abilities, techniques and talents. Jackie Bellando, Tricia Giglio, Marlana Gomes, Alyssa Heiser, Natalie Jenkins, Sarah Kelley, Lizzy Leahy, Cassie Muzik and Gaby Ransom will arrive on the hill this fall looking to make an immediate impact on the Holy Cross women's soccer program. "We have an excellent freshman class," says Gallagher. "When I was recruiting these players, I was looking for players that had good technique and composure on the ball. True to my goals, all nine players demonstrate excellent skill and individual areas of excellence that will help us to create a more sophisticated level of play." Gallagher is also excited about the speed the rookies will bring to the game. "We have also added a little bit of pace, we have some quick players, and that will add to the team's speed of play."
Holy Cross will open the season at home against Rhode Island on August 27 before taking on a balanced home and away non-conference schedule in the month of September. "The schedule is more balanced this year than last year," commented Gallagher. "At one point we played five games in nine days, which is a big challenge for any high level soccer player."
The Crusaders open up Patriot League action at home, facing off against Lafayette on October 2. "Lafayette had a good year last year, despite finishing at the tail end of the league," said Gallagher. "They played everyone very close. They will be ready to go again and it will not be an easy game." Holy Cross will play a non-conference match against Brown before welcoming American and Navy to the Linda Johnson Smith Soccer Stadium on October 8 and 10 for a Patriot League weekend of action. The Crusaders will hit the road to take on Lehigh on October 16 and face off with Yale on October 19 before traveling to Hamilton, N.Y. to play against 2009 Patriot League champion, Colgate, on October 22. After last season's 2-1 double overtime loss to the Raiders, Gallagher would like another chance to take the field against the reigning champs. "It was a heartbreaker. We dominated large parts of that game and looked like the side more likely to score." The Crusaders will finish up the road portion of the regular season with a game at Bucknell on October 24 and then close out the regular season at home against Army on October 29.
The Patriot League Tournament is set for November 5 and 7, on the campus of the regular season champion. The top four teams in the final regular season standings will take part in the tournament, with Holy Cross looking to make the field of four for the first time since 2000.