By Bradley Walker
The recent success of the Holy Cross
team caps a wonderful year for Crusader women's athletics. First-year Coach Bob
Neville took the Holy Cross program to new heights, winning a conference title
and earning a spot as one of the top teams in the Northeast region.
After finishing with a 15-21-1 mark in 1997, the team turned to Neville. His
team opened with a spring trip to Florida, going 5-4-1 as the team and coach
started to get a sense of what to expect
from each other. One thing Neville knew for certain was that he inherited
a strong, experienced pitching staff with Sarah Heywood and two-time All-Patriot
Leaguer Genoa Grosch. At catcher, he had two talented sophomores in Briana Crane
and Alexis Lyon. The Crusader infield was strong, if young, with first-year students
Jamie Olenoski and Tiffany DeCoff stepping in at second and third and returning
starters Sara Thomas at first base and Jennifer Jenkins at shortstop. The outfield
was anchored by three upperclass students with captains Amy Falite and Allison
Egbert, accompanied by slugger Jen Ruggiero. Neville also found versatility in
Stephanie Marcucci, Amanda Stepp and Shelly Richard who gave him options at almost
When Holy Cross returned to the Northeast they dropped
two one-run losses to regionally ranked Boston College (3-4 and 0-1) before beginning
schedule. The Crusaders were predicted to finish fifth out of six teams in the
Patriot League after a fourth place
finish in 1997.
The Crusaders made an early statement that the prognosticators may have erred,
as they traveled to Bucknell and took
three of four games from the League's preseason favorite, en route to an impressive
7-1 start in league play, along with a 12-9-1 overall mark.
The next big challenge for the Crusaders came
in mid-April - a four game set with Lehigh, who had won the Patriot League championship
in each of the previous four seasons. Lehigh came out firing against the upstart
Crusaders, winning the opener 9-1, but a Grosch six-hitter led Holy Cross to
a 2-1 victory in the second game. A split of the second
day's double header left the Crusaders with a 9-3 league mark and sole possession
of first place.
According to Neville, the Crusaders began to feel as if they had faced the challenges,
and believed in themselves. In first place for the first time in Patriot League
history, the team committed
itself to continue its winning ways. "Expectations were set high and the players
never lost sight of where we wanted to be," said Neville.
After a 3-2 loss, Holy Cross went on to win five straight games, including a
four game sweep of Army at West Point. With one week to go in the regular season,
the Crusaders had a four-game lead over the second-place team, Colgate. Holy
Cross won three out of four against Central Connecticut State and Brown University
during the week,
before facing one of the league's most intimidating pitchers over the past two
years, Colgate junior Tara McGoff. With Colgate also boasting the second best
batting average in the league, the one victory the Crusaders needed to clinch
the top spot in the Patriot League tournament would not come
As expected, Colgate pitched McGoff the first game, coming out with a 3-1 victory.
Showing confidence in their star, they put McGoff back on the mound in the second
game, as she pitched a five inning, 8-0 shutout. It was only the fourth time
this season the Crusaders had lost two games in a row. The next day, with McGoff
once again on the
mound, the Crusaders turned again to Grosch. McGoff held the Crusaders
to just one run - Jamie Olensoski tripled and was driven home by an Alexis Lyon
single. Grosch took care of the rest, as she pitched a one-hitter, while striking
out eight, to lead Holy Cross to its first ever regular
season title. "This team has now set the tone for the future," Neville
said. "It has re-established pride, and hopefully established a long tradition
of success for the softball program."
Holy Cross carried a 27-16-1 mark into the Patriot League tournament in Allentown,
Pa. Despite holding the number one seed for the first time in school history,
the team's first game in the double elimination tournament was once again against
McGoff and Colgate,
with the Red Raiders prevailing 3-2 in 10 innings. The loss sent the Crusaders
to the losers bracket, from where they would need four wins in two days to win
the tournament title.
It was Heywood who kept Holy Cross alive first, twirling a three-hitter against
Bucknell for a 1-0 victory. Grosch then eliminated Colgate and McGoff with
a 7-1 victory, setting up a rematch with Lehigh. Since Lehigh had not lost yet
in the tournament, the Crusaders would have to sweep a pair from the four-time
Needing to win two games in Lehigh's backyard, Neville had to look no further
than the local newspaper for a source of
inspiration, as one of the Lehigh's players was quoted as claiming that "no one
ever beats us twice."
The Crusaders took that to heart and were determined
to prove them wrong. Holy Cross defeated Lehigh in the next two games (7-1 and
4-3), leading the team to
the tournament title. Grosh
was named Patriot League Tournament MVP.
Holy Cross, 31-19-1, would drop two games at Harvard in their first-ever appearance
in the NCAA Play-In and would end the season ranked ninth in the region. Still,
the team's accomplishments were many. Their record was the best in more than
10 years. Four players were selected to the All-Patriot League team, with Grosch
and Olenoski earning First Team honors, and Jenkins and Lyon making the Second
Team. In addition to those honors, first-year head coach Bob Neville was voted
unanimously the Patriot League Coach of the Year, while Grosch was selected as
the Co-Pitcher of the Year for the second time in three years.
Neville summed up the season as follows: "I was proud of this team not just for
the way they performed all year, but the way they exemplified the meaning of
the word 'team,' both on
and off the field," he said. "They came together, putting all their differences
aside and pushed each other towards the goals we set early in the season. I feel
the team learned a lot from that camaraderie and the end result
was our success."
The Crusaders will lose the services of four seniors,
including Heywood, but with the addition of some talented first-year students
they are poised to make
1999 another year to remember.
By Bradley Walker
Three hundred friends, family members, teammates,
colleagues and admirers gathered in the Hogan Campus Center on May 16 to
pay tribute to retiring athletic director, Ron Perry '54. President Rev. Gerard
Reedy, S.J., initiated the activities with an invocation. From the beautiful
Mass Father Earle L. Markey, S.J., '53, celebrated with Fathers John E. Brooks,
S.J., '49, Charles J. Dunn, S.J., and Francis X. Miller,
S.J., '46, to Ron's comprehensive and masterful accounting of his 26-year stewardship,
the delightful event was glitch-free.
Humor, appreciation and admiration of Ron's achievements as scholar-athlete,
coach and athletic director, were themes
as George Blaney '61, Tom Heinsohn '56, Ronnie Perry '80, and Father Brooks shared
Bill Gibbons, head coach of women's basketball, presented a farewell gift on
behalf of the women's teams and coaches, as
did men's basketball coach, Bill Raynor, for the men's programs. Coach Raynor,
who played on championship teams for Ron at Catholic Memorial High School in
West Roxbury, Mass., provided fascinating examples of Ron's coaching
Teammates from two Massachusetts state championship
teams and one New England championship team from Somerville High, fondly recalled
their years together.
Catholic Memorial was also represented as were the Eastern College Athletic Conference
and the Patriot League. Togo Palazzi, Joe Liebler, Don Prohovich and Dick Santaniello
of the 1954 NIT
Champions were on hand to honor their co-captain.
As is wholly appropriate, Ron goes out in championship