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Slap Shots and Fastballs

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 baseball coach.

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 team.

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 her.

“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 amazing synchronization.

“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 Fame:

  • 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

Looking for more information on Crusader athletics?

Holy Cross Sports News is designed to keep local and national media in touch with the latest on every Crusader team, but it is also available via subscription to alumni, fans and friends. Published six times per year, Holy Cross Sports News features schedules, results, standings, news, notes, award winners, and features on Crusader athletics. For a one year subscription send a check for $12 made payable to “Holy Cross Athletic Department,” to:

Holy Cross Athletic Media Relations
1 College Street
Worcester, MA 01610



Paul Pearl

Paul Pearl

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