Patrick Grudberg ‘24
The Holy Cross women’s basketball team’s previous season ended in arguably the most painful way possible – a buzzer-beater. We typically associate these last-second winners with joyous eruptions of excitement and cheering, storming the court and creating unforgettable memories. That’s not the case when you’re on the losing side of one. In March of 2022, the Crusaders entered the Patriot League conference tournament as the #1 seed after securing their first regular season title since 2005. They entered their quarterfinal matchup heavily favored over the #8 seeded Navy Midshipmen, who they had defeated on Senior Day only a few weeks before. With six minutes left in that quarterfinal game, things still looked good; the Crusaders held a ten point lead and looked well on their way to the semifinal. Enter Jennifer Coleman, Navy’s best player and one of the best in the entire league that season. Down six with ninety seconds left, she hit three straight threes, the last one being that fateful buzzer-beater. On that play, Holy Cross was up 49-47 with one second left. Navy threw an inbounds pass to Coleman, who, heavily contested, chucked up an off-balanced fadeaway three pointer that banked off the glass before falling through the net. With that, their NCAA Tournament hopes were vanquished.
After such a heartbreaking end to last season, we should expect Holy Cross to be out for revenge this year. Coach Maureen Magarity enters her third season at the helm, recently earning a contract extension through 2027-28. Their biggest loss this offseason has to be guard Avery LaBarbera, who graduated and is using her final year of eligibility to play at Wisconsin. During her four year career at Holy Cross, LaBarbera was a scoring machine and has been a huge reason for the program’s turnaround in recent years. She started in 105 of 107 games in her career and will be greatly missed. The Crusaders also lost key forward Oluchi Ezemma in addition to Kelly Petro and Madison Demski. With four rotation players departing, there will be plenty of minutes up for grabs and responsibilities to fill.
Considering the loss of these players, this year’s roster is understandably much younger; Addyson Cross is the team’s only senior, while four freshmen join the roster. Still, there are plenty of returnees ready to fill the shoes of last year’s leaders. The player most primed to take a huge leap this season is junior guard Bronagh Power-Cassidy. The 5’10 guard from Dublin, Ireland was rookie of the year her freshman season and was second on the team in points last year behind LaBarbera. She can finish around the rim and also hit threes from outside (35% on 3.5 attempts a game). She’s a fantastic, all-around offensive weapon and plays great defense as well. Power-Cassidy will be a critical piece in what hopes to be a potent offensive attack.
The three other players primed for breakout years are junior Janelle Allen, senior Addisyn Cross, and junior Cara McCormack. After playing alongside Ezemma down low last year, Allen will assume an even bigger role in Coach Magarity’s system. She’s an excellent post scorer, plays solid interior defense and grabs rebounds at an impressive clip. Cross and McCormack make up a Crusader backcourt that could wreak havoc on both ends. Cross started every game at point guard last season and was a fantastic facilitator. She also played stifling on-ball defense and caused major issues for opposing guards. She only averaged four points a game last season, so we can expect that to increase significantly. McCormack started last season injured, but she quickly became a spark plug off the bench.
In addition to these three, don’t be surprised if transfer and 6’1” forward Callie Wright earns some frontcourt minutes. Wright, coming over from Memphis, didn’t get much run for the Tigers but should bring plenty of value coming from a major program like Memphis. Additionally, we can expect some of her fellow sophomores to assume important roles in the rotation. Guard Grace Munt saw the most action of the three returning sophomores and should be able to provide key bench minutes in the backcourt. Lindsay Berger, a sophomore forward, is the tallest player on the roster at 6’2” and might provide a similar role for the frontcourt. Lauren Huber, the fourth sophomore, showed flashes in her limited appearances last year. Finally, who knows what to expect from what should be an exciting freshman class of Meg Cahalan, Kaitlyn Flanagan, Simone Foreman and Mary-Elizabeth Donnelly.
This team was picked to finish third in the Patriot League preseason polls. Despite losing a star in LaBarbera, Coach Magarity has this team ready to repeat last year’s success. And not just in the regular season: this year, I’m predicting that Holy Cross will win the conference tournament and make their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2007. Best of luck to the Crusaders when they take on Merrimack and Marquette in their first games this week!
Image courtesy of GoHolyCross.com 2022-23 Women’s Basketball Roster