Whether the sport is hockey or baseball,
Coach of the Year Paul Pearl knows what it takes to win.
By Bradley Walker
For a coach, the mark of the successful season is an appearance
in the postseason. Holy Cross Coach Paul Pearl may have just
raised that mark.
On March 20, Pearl led the Crusader ice hockey team to the inaugural Metro Atlantic
Athletic Conference Championship with a 4-3 victory over Canisius before a sold-out
crowd at the Hart Center. It was the school’s first year in a Division
I hockey conference, and the team’s 22 victories were the most for a Crusader
team since the 1979-80 season.
For most coaches, that would be enough. Not for Pearl.
At the same time he was leading the hockey team through the MAAC tournament,
he was preparing the baseball team for its 1999 campaign. This spring, as the
baseball coach, Pearl led Holy Cross to its first-ever appearance in the Patriot
League tournament and a chance to earn its first NCAA bid since 1978. For his
efforts, he was named the Patriot League’s Coach of the Year — the
first time a Crusader coach has been so honored.
Two teams, two postseason tournaments, the most wins in 20 years for one team, “Coach
of the Year” honors with another. Pearl’s performance this year has
been a definition of success.
Pearl is accustomed to success on Mount St. James. A 1989 Holy Cross graduate,
he was a four-year letter winner and former captain of both the baseball and
hockey teams. Pearl was a standout catcher, outfielder, and first baseman from
1986-89. In 1989 he earned the coveted Riopel Ring given to the team MVP and
ended his career with a .310 batting average. He played in 125 games as a defenseman
for the hockey team, tallying 14 goals and 63 assists. As a senior he led the
1988-89 squad with 25 assists.
After his playing days were over, his competitive drive led him toward a career
in coaching. Pearl had hockey coaching stints at Portsmouth Abbey School (1990-91)
and the University of Connecticut (1992-94) before returning to Holy Cross in
1994 as head coach of the hockey program. In his first two years at the helm,
he led the Crusaders to consecutive winning seasons, including two ECAC East
playoff appearances. Concluding the 1996 season, Pearl decided to move on to
Brown University for one year as an assistant, before returning to Holy Cross
in 1997. This time he returned as the full-time head hockey coach and assistant
Pearl relished the opportunity to come back to his old stomping grounds. “Having
gone to Holy Cross and knowing the value of the school’s education is a
tremendous advantage. It gives me the unique perspective of knowing what the
student-athletes are experiencing,” he said. “I’m fortunate
to know the school as a coach, a student and a player and therefore I can help
the student in areas that someone who did not go here would not be able to.”
The 1997-98 hockey season was a memorable one for Coach Pearl. It would be Holy
Cross’ last in the ECAC East as the College decided to become a charter
member of the newly formed Division I MAAC Hockey League for the 1998-99 season.
The team posted a 16-8-2 record, earning a #1 seed in the ECAC playoffs for the
first time. Pearl’s accomplishments did not go unnoticed by his peers as
he was named 1998 ECAC East Coach of the Year and 1998 New England Sports Writers’ Association
Coach of the Year.
This season, however, Pearl was asked to shoulder more responsibility, being
named the new head coach of the Holy Cross baseball team after serving as an
assistant under long-time baseball mentor, the late Jack Whalen ’48, for
three seasons. And while these new responsibilities would be extremely taxing
on the hard-working Pearl, he relished the opportunity. “I was very excited
to take over a program with so much tradition,” he said.
Coach Pearl started this year with the task of continuing one program’s
success at a higher level and trying to return the other program to respectability
within the league.
The hockey team was voted the preseason favorite entering the first year of MAAC
Hockey League competition, returning 11 seniors for the 1998-99 campaign. But
the road to the championship was not a smooth one. After two-year starter, goalie
Tom Ormondroyd went down with post-concussion syndrome, Pearl had to replace
the All-Conference performer in net. He relied on senior Scott Simpson to step
in valiantly after seeing limited time his previous three years. Fourteen games
into the season, the Crusaders found themselves in fifth place in the league
and 6-6-2 overall. After that slow start, Coach Pearl rallied his troops, going
13-3-2 over the second half of the regular season, earning second place in the
MAAC and the #2 seed in the MAAC Hockey League tournament held at the Hart Center.
After defeating Sacred Heart in the first round, the Crusaders faced rival UConn
in the semi-finals in front of a packed Hart Center crowd. Holy Cross was victorious
in one of the most exciting games played on the Hart Center ice defeating UConn
4-3 in overtime. The Canisius Ice Griffs were the only thing standing in the
way of a Holy Cross championship. With the game tied 3-3 going into the third
period, the Crusaders staged a heroic finish, capped off with senior Mike Ortwein
connecting with senior Mike Maguire for the game-winning goal, dubbing Holy Cross
the first-ever MAAC Hockey League champion. The MAAC championship was Holy Cross’s
first-ever conference championship. With the win, the Crusaders went to 22-9-4
on the year, the best record in Holy Cross hockey history. In his four years,
Pearl has compiled a 66-38-8 record, increasing his single season win total each
of the last three years.
When spring arrived, Pearl switched from the ice to the diamond and with that
came a different set of team goals. The baseball team had been struggling the
past few years, going 25-80 over the last three seasons. With 13 freshman and
seven sophomores on the squad, Pearl hoped that the mix of young talent and experienced
veterans could improve on last season’s 7-29 performance. At the end of
the regular season, the Crusaders were 14-25 overall, which is a seven game improvement
from last year. More importantly Holy Cross found itself in the hunt for the
third place and a playoff spot in the Patriot League Tournament. Holy Cross clinched
that spot with an 8-6 win over Navy in the final game of the regular season earning
its first-ever Patriot League Tournament appearance.
As a result of the team success, Pearl was recognized as the Patriot League Coach
of the Year for the 1999 baseball season. The Crusaders were also honored as
sophomore Jim Sweeney was selected as the Player of the Year, the first time
a Crusader has been so honored by the Patriot League coaches. For Pearl, he added
the honor to the one he won for his hockey coaching just a year before.
The marriage between Holy Cross and Paul Pearl has been a fruitful one. From
his past success on the baseball field and on the ice, to his current role in
leading the hockey team to unprecedented success and the baseball team to a rebirth,
Crusader fans hope the best is yet to come.
Women’s Hockey Goes Varsity
By Jaime de Leon ’01
For the past four seasons, the women’s hockey team
has coped with ill-fitting uniforms, small budgets, little
ice time, used equipment, and part-time coaches. But, now
that the team has won its most imposing challenge of the
past four years, these problems will all change next season.
In April, the women’s ice hockey team was granted full
varsity status, which goes into effect with the 1999-00 season.
After 10 years as a club sport and two as having semi-varsity
status, the team will finally be able to compete on the varsity
level. While the team will be independent next year, it will
apply for admission to the Division III Eastern College Athletic
Conference (ECAC) the following year.
The process of attaining varsity status took several years; during this time,
the senior members of the team met with the athletic director and presented proposals
to members of the administration. While not successful until last year, the team
enjoyed several benefits over the years, including an increase in the budget
and the naming of Jane Ford, director of telecommunications at the College, as
the first head coach.
Going varsity will bring other changes as well, such as having a person to record
the statistics and operate the clocks. Scheduling and travel arrangements will
also be affected; in the past, the players stayed in private homes on road trips.
The move to varsity is especially exciting for the team’s younger players. “I’m
definitely excited about getting to play other teams that are already varsity,” said
Yasmine Bajwa ’01, a center on the team. “We’ve gotten to play
a few of them in the past as a club team and it will be good to be able to play
them on their level.”
Last year, the team played against several varsity teams and ended the season
with a 14-14-2 record. While the team endured some tough losses, it also upset
teams such as MIT, Trinity, and Skidmore. In addition to this, the players gained
experience by playing top-notch opponents such as the Australian junior national
Overall, the future is bright for the Crusader women’s ice hockey team.
Next season, the team will welcome several of the nation’s top high school
players. “It [the new varsity status] gives me a lot of hope for our younger
athletes,” said Steph Santangelo ’99. “We are up and coming.
If there are more women athletes, there are more [female] role models.”
Christine Henwood Rows to Victory
By Jaime de Leon ’01
Ever since she could remember, Christine Henwood ’99
was near boats, waiting for her chance to row.
With her father an established high school crew coach back home in Philadelphia,
Pa., Christine was introduced to the sport at a very young age. She did not begin
rowing competitively, however, until her sophomore year in high school. From
then until now, Christine has competed in relative obscurity, all the while becoming
one of the College’s premier student-athletes. Not that the obscurity bothers
“We don’t get much exposure, but that’s fine. We’re used
to it,” she says, speaking for the whole team.
The team has done some amazing things over the past four years. Two years ago,
the team won the New England Championships and finished second in the Nationals,
competing with a four-man boat. Last year, the team was third in both the New
England Championships and the Nationals. This past April, the varsity crew entered
the New England Championships in the more-competitive varsity, eight-boat division
and again finished third, a startling achievement for a first effort.
As co-captain and one of the top rowers, Christine’s leadership skills
have been paramount to the squad’s success. In a sport where the team is
more important than any individual effort, Henwood’s contributions have
shone. She works extremely well with others, as evidenced by the unit’s
“You’re only as strong as your slowest person so every seat is as
important as the next,” she says.
Commitment is also another of Christine’s strong points. The team begins
training in the fall, competing in races such as the Head of the Regatta on the
Charles River. When the racing stops at the end of October, training for the
spring season gets underway. Following the yearly trip to Cocoa Beach, Fla.,
over spring break, the team begins the new season, which lasts until the National
Championships on May 16, two days following the end of exams.
Despite the emphasis on team, Christine’s accomplishments as a leader could
not be ignored. On May 1, the Varsity Club of Holy Cross honored her with the
Intercollegiate Athletic Award. Even in accepting the award, Christine thanked
her coaches and teammates for contributing to her success.
“I would like to thank my parents for supporting me and giving me the opportunity
to come to Holy Cross and row. I’d like to thank my coach, Patrick Diggins ’86,
for giving me a chance as a freshman … He gave me a lot of opportunities
to step up. And my teammates, because I’m nothing without them. It’s
not a one-man show; it’s a team.”
As is the case with most fourth-year students, Christine dreads the ‘what
are you doing next year’ question. For her, the immediate future is looking
very good. Christine plans to return home to Philadelphia to train with her father
and to coach alongside him at Roman Catholic High School. Surprisingly, she says
she is excited to be coaching male high-school freshmen. Christine is hopeful
she will make the Olympics in the next couple of years. With a work ethic as
strong as hers, you can count on seeing her there.
Hall of Fame
On Saturday, May 1, 1999, the Varsity Club inducted the
following individuals into the Holy Cross Athletic Hall of
- MICHAEL P. COONEY ’54, Track and Field, Football
- HAROLD F. DEITZ ’59, Baseball
- JOSEPH L. LUNNY ’86, Hockey
- ANTHONY F. MELINK ’85, Football
- NORINNE M. POWERS ’93, Basketball
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