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  Athletics    
         
    "Drive and determination"

Susie Whelan '07 puts everything on the line every time she steps on the field.

By Patrick Maloney '02

The Holy Cross field hockey team had a successful campaign in 2003, posting a 13-7 record and finishing in second place in the Patriot League. The team posted the third most wins and scored the fourth most goals in school history. The squad’s offense did not lack for all-stars. Forward Jenna Cook ’06 (Walpole, Mass.) scored 16 goals, the third most in a single season. Co-captains Jillian LeClair ’04 (Gardiner, Maine) and Heather Yanusas ’04 (Southbury, Conn.) each finished in the top five for assists by a Holy Cross player in a single season and a career. And beyond the Crusaders’ offensive firepower lay one of the better skilled midfields in New England.

Meg Galligan, who just finished her 19th season as head coach of the Crusaders, began the year looking at several upperclass students to make up the midfield. But in the end, Galligan saw another player step up and take a starting role—Susanne Whelan ’07 (Acton, Mass.). Whelan responded to this opportunity with 70 interceptions—the second most on the team—and 36 tackles, which ranked her sixth on the Purple squad. In addition, she was the only first-year player on the team to start all 20 games of the 2003 season.

“Susie is a good marker,” says Galligan. “It is not really a glorious position. It is a position that is a real test of character, and I could not ask Susie to do any more. She never gets rattled out there. She really adds a positive presence to the team. She shows up every day, works hard and does everything with a smile, and that attitude really rubs off.”

Whelan is the youngest of Timothy and Maria’s three children—her father was an All-American running back at Tufts. She and her siblings all followed dad’s footsteps into sports. Growing up, Whelan played field hockey, lacrosse, softball and swam competitively. And though she went on plenty of college scouting tours with her parents, she knew from a very young age that she wanted to attend Holy Cross.

“I went on the Holy Cross tour,” says Whelan, “and knew it was the place for me.”

Whelan’s dream, however, took a sudden and unexpected turn when she suffered a nightmarish injury in the seventh grade.

In the spring of 1997, while playing softball, she decided to hustle and take second base off a base hit. Going head-first into second, Whelan ended up sliding into the second baseman’s cleats. Bystanders knew that something was seriously wrong and called for help. An ambulance rushed her to Children’s Hospital in Boston, where she was diagnosed with a ruptured spleen, punctured lung, bruised heart, and four cracked ribs.

A liver transplant surgeon at Children’s Hospital hurried Whelan into the operating room for emergency surgery. Placed in intensive care for two weeks, she was confined to her bed at home for another 10 days following her discharge from the hospital. Too weak to get around after the surgery, Whelan had to find ways to meet with her teachers in order to make up schoolwork. When the ordeal was finally over, she had a vertical scar on her stomach about eight inches long. Although Whelan spent the better part of five months recovering, she was determined to get back on the playing field. Her parents were a little reluctant to let their daughter play sports again but knew that they could not hold her back.

Returning to play field hockey and lacrosse at Acton-Boxboro (Mass.) High School, Whelan was forced to wear a chest protector under her uniform that would significantly soften any blow she received to that area. During this time, her field hockey coach was Maura Champigny ’89, who encouraged her to apply to Holy Cross.

Despite the possibility of further injury, Whelan played just as aggressively as she had before her injury, earning the team’s “Hustler” Award in 2000—when her squad won Acton-Boxboro’s first state championship in field hockey since 1983.

Over the next two years, Whelan went on to be the team’s “Most Valuable Player” twice; “Dual County League All-Star” twice; and “Lowell Sun All-Star” twice. Named captain of the team in 2002, she also earned “Metrowest Daily News All-Star” accolades. Thanks in large part to the determination that Whelan exhibited on the field, Galligan contacted Champigny about this stand-out player.

“I saw that she had talent and good athletic ability,” Galligan says. “I could also tell that she was a real workhorse.”

Whelan had offers from other schools but knew all along that Holy Cross was the place for her. Whelan’s grandfather, Henry Reeves ’50, was pleased to see one of his grandchildren attend his alma mater.

“He was very excited,” says Whelan. “He loves coming up to the games.”

His excitement was contagious as his granddaughter had just one word to describe her first semester on the Hill— “Unbelievable!”

“I love the challenge academically and athletically,” says Whelan. “I think our team is unique, too. It’s very close-knit, and it was easy to make friends right away. It has really been a great experience.”

Although Whelan still has to be cautious because of the scar tissue and needs to take stomach viruses seriously, she has already excelled in her first season on the field for the Crusaders. Yet, despite all the success, Whelan has her focus on future goals.

“I know I need to work on some little things,” she says. “I have to work on my tactics and, also, on my confidence. I know that I want to be a louder player on the field next year. I was a little bit too shy last year, and sometimes I waited to be told where to go. I want to change that.”

Patrick Maloney ’02 is the College’s assistant director of athletic media relations.

 

Susie Whelan '07
Susie Whelan '07

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