Aug. 14, 2006
By Jim Wrobel
Special to GoHolyCross.com
The Holy Cross women's soccer team looks to the 2006 season with a sense of excitement and intensity, as it will have a nice mix of veterans and young players. The Crusaders return 20 players from last season (3-15, 1-6 Patriot League) after graduating only two and will welcome 10 newcomers to the program. This season will also see Holy Cross play 12 of its 20 games at home in the new Linda Johnson Smith Stadium, a 1,320-seat natural grass facility that is located behind the Hart Center and is equipped with a press box, lights and a scoreboard.
"I think we have a great combination of experienced players with great leadership skills, and a solid bunch of newcomers," said third year head coach Deb Flaherty. "I'm excited about the maturity of the program and the direction it is going. The chemistry of the team is great right now and the intensity of everyone wanting to win. Also having the new stadium brings a lot of excitement to the program."
The team will be looking to its four senior captains in two-time captains Lisa DeMari, Natalie Gebo and Lauren Pereira, as well as first-time captain Danielle Reilly for leadership. "This year's captains are unique in the fact that they are all bringing something a little bit different," said Flaherty. "Natalie has the ability to get everyone excited for the game, while Lisa is coming of two knee surgeries and has learned to lead differently because she has not been able to be on the field. Danielle is pretty much already the face of women's soccer because she is our SAC representative and a big leader on campus as it is, while Lauren leads by example on the field. They are a good combination for the younger players to look up to."
The Crusaders have six seniors and seven juniors that have seen a lot of playing time over the last two to three years so their game experience will be a major factor in coming out on top especially in close games. "Experience can make or break close games in the last minutes," said Flaherty. "You try to teach scenarios in practice but if you have experience your instincts take over in the games. The experience of some negative outcomes in close games the last couple of years should help win those games this season."
Flaherty sees having a big group of players returning and a big group of newcomers as a major positive for the team. "The competition within the team will be much more intense and our practices will be better than they ever were, therefore games will be better. Healthy competition will be great for the team."
The freshman class brings high expectations with it. "I'm expecting really big things," said Flaherty. "The class is very diverse and possibly four to five will fight for a starting position and we expect a couple to contribute right away."
The Crusaders will once again play a challenging non-conference schedule to prepare for the Patriot League. "We have played pretty well in our non conference games over the last two years," said Flaherty. "Last year, Boston College was a nationally ranked team and the top team in the Northeast and we played them really well. If we could play like that every game we would do great in the Patriot League. Same with Northeastern, we lost 3-2 in a real good game. So we need to take that level of play into league games and that will be a focus." Here is a breakdown of how the Crusaders should look in 2006.
Senior Meredith Davis is looking to have a big season as she has the most career goals (11) and points (27) of any current Crusader, while last year she led the team in assists (three) and was second in points (seven). Junior Alison Peters will return to the forward position after starting at center midfield last season due to injuries. She had a solid season with two goals and an assist for five points.
Senior Kristen Locke and junior Christine Kingston are expected to vie for critical playing time. "They both have all the athletic ability in the world and we need them to have good seasons up front," said Flaherty. Freshmen Justine Cefalu and Shelby Stand are also expected to contribute.
Midfield will be an extremely competitive position for playing time this season as the Crusaders have a wealth of talent in that position. Pereira returns after an outstanding season a year ago at center midfield which saw her lead the team in goals (four) and points (10). Flaherty is also hoping to be able to play Pereira at forward sometimes depending on the play of some other center midfielders.
DeMari will miss half the season due to injury but will be a key leader on the team and when healthy will be one of the best players on the field. Sophomore Casey Boland had a very impressive rookie season as she played in all 18 games with 16 starts scoring a goal and adding two assists as a forward. "Casey had a great spring and I expect big things from her this season," said Flaherty.
Sophomore Ashley Walsh, who played in 10 games with seven starts but missed a lot of last season due to injury, is expected to be a major contributor, while sophomore Olivia Gerde, freshman Marielle Gonzalez and freshman Megan Metzger will be solid in the midfield. A very versatile group of freshmen in Sarah Gouveia, Paige Harrison and Chelsi Pugliese will bring talent to multiple positions. Gouveia can play midfield and defense, while Harrison and Pugliese can play all three positions.
The Crusaders have a veteran group of defenders with an abundance of game experience coming back this season. Gebo and Reilly will bring leadership to their positions, while junior Katherine Brower is coming off a season that saw her start 15 games. Junior Meighan Kelly who is also a midfielder, contributed with two goals and an assist last year as Flaherty considers her an integral part in any success the team earns.
Junior Kaitlin McTague and Meghan Heffernan are solid defenders that will be playing the center back position. Sophomore Tracy Koval, sophomore Alanna Malone, sophomore Christine Winters, freshman Courtney Callahan and freshman Kendra Demakis are expected to be keys in the strength of the defense.
Juniors Jessica Pietrowicz and Cashel Scanlon return from last season which saw them both see action, while freshman Jessica Stone joins the program. Pietrowicz battled through injuries last season as she played in 15 games with eight starts and saw 1,045:00 minutes of action. She was ranked third in the Patriot League in saves per game (5.40), while she was tied for fourth in saves (81).
Scanlon split time with Pietrowicz through the first 10 games before she was forced to miss the rest of the season due to injury. Stone comes to Holy Cross from St. John's College H.S. in Washington, D.C., where she was a four-year varsity starter and senior captain. She won the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference all-conference goalie award four times and her team won the WCAC Championship in 2005.