Northeast Times

Holy Family women's lax lifted by local talent

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The Holy Fam­ily wo­men’s lacrosse team re­turned to the field this week as cham­pi­ons as they hos­ted their sum­mer day camp for grade school and high school play­ers. 

The young ath­letes learned from the best, as the Ti­gers re­cently won the Cent­ral At­lantic Col­legi­ate Con­fer­ence (CACC) Cham­pi­on­ship in May, the first reg­u­lar sea­son title in pro­gram his­tory.

This is only the fourth sea­son for the Ti­gers wo­men’s lacrosse pro­gram. Three play­ers that have been there since the pro­gram’s in­cep­tion are Jes­sica Malo­ney and Stephanie McNesby of Arch­bish­op Ry­an and Maria Mat­ti­oli of Naz­areth Academy. All three will be seni­ors next year.

“We’ve been the un­der­dog in the con­fer­ence be­cause we are a new team,” McNesby said. “Our coaches this year did a lot to en­cour­age us. We saw their pas­sion and it in­spired us to work hard and win.”

The squad was led by first year head coach Eliza­beth Weber. Weber played at Loy­ola Uni­versity and pre­vi­ously coached at La Salle Uni­versity and Vil­lan­ova Uni­versity.

“The new coaches had a lot of ex­pect­a­tions for us,” Malo­ney ex­plained.  “It was really good to work off of that. It was great to see their pas­sion for the team and we wanted to make a good im­pres­sion.”

“We set goals for ourselves at the be­gin­ning of the sea­son,” Weber ad­ded. “I knew what I wanted and they knew my ex­pect­a­tions. We did a lot of work in the fall to pre­pare for the up­com­ing sea­son.”

Holy Fam­ily’s hard work paid off. The Ti­gers fin­ished their reg­u­lar sea­son with a 16-11 win over rival Phil­adelphia Uni­versity, rank­ing as the top seed in the con­fer­ence with a 12-4 re­cord and claim­ing their first-ever CACC reg­u­lar sea­son title.

Mat­ti­oli scored a ca­reer-high 10 goals with 27 ground balls and eight caused turnovers. Malo­ney tal­lied 25 ground balls with 23 draw con­trols and two caused turnovers.

McNesby was named the 2012 CACC Lacrosse Play­er of the Year, the league’s top hon­or. She’s the first Holy Fam­ily play­er to re­ceive the award. McNesby pos­ted 48 goals, 17 as­sists, 65 points and 42 ground balls dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son. She tal­lied 119 draw con­trols, second most in the na­tion, and ranks first in all of Di­vi­sion II with 7.44 draw con­trols per game. In ad­di­tion, McNesby was also se­lec­ted as the CACC Stu­dent-Ath­lete of the Month for May.

After a bye in the tour­na­ment’s first round, Holy Fam­ily faced Wilm­ing­ton Uni­versity in the semi­finals on May 5, pre­vail­ing 15-10. Mat­ti­oli scored two goals and two ground balls. McNesby also ad­ded two goals and a team-high five ground balls to go with six draw con­trols.

The fol­low­ing day, Holy Fam­ily took on second-seed Geor­gi­an Court Uni­versity for the CACC Cham­pi­on­ship. The two-time de­fend­ing con­fer­ence cham­pi­ons, had been un­defeated at home for the past four sea­sons un­til a 17-14 Holy Fam­ily vic­tory on April 11 spoiled the streak.

“Des­pite the way the sea­son was go­ing, people still con­sidered us to be lucky (to be there),” Malo­ney said. “We were still the un­der­dogs. People still ex­pec­ted Geor­gi­an Court would get us in the cham­pi­on­ship.”

Holy Fam­ily had pre­vi­ously lost the 2010 cham­pi­on­ship to Geor­gi­an Court, 19-4.  But the Ti­gers were ready for their second chance at the title.

Both teams traded goals in the first half.  Holy Fam­ily’s Sarah Kelly scored with just six seconds left, giv­ing Holy Fam­ily a 7-6 half­time lead 

“Al­though the score was close, I just had a feel­ing we were go­ing to win,” McNesby said.

Holy Fam­ily star­ted the second half strong, net­ting four con­sec­ut­ive goals.  Malo­ney ad­ded an­oth­er to make the score 12-6, the Ti­gers’ largest lead of the game.

Geor­gi­an Court would make its own run, adding three goals, but their ef­forts proved to be fu­tile in the end. Holy Fam­ily took the game and the title in a 15-10 tri­umph. The Ti­gers fin­ished the sea­son on an 11-game win­ning streak.

McNesby grabbed two ground balls and con­trolled four draws in the game.  She was named to the All-Tour­na­ment team along with fresh­men Sarah Kelly and Bri­anna Lan­cetta. Seni­or goal­keep­er Melissa Jen­kins was named the Tour­na­ment’s Most Valu­able Play­er with 12 saves. Seni­or Gina Mansi ended her ca­reer as the team’s all-time lead­ing scorer with 166 goals.

The Ti­gers com­pleted their sea­son with a 14-4 over­all re­cord, go­ing 11-1 in their con­fer­ence. 

“If it wasn’t for our coaches, we wouldn’t have got­ten to this point,” McNesby said.  “They en­cour­aged us and helped us win.  This was truly a group ef­fort.”

Ad­ded Weber: “They were will­ing to work hard and put in the ex­tra ef­fort, which is why we won the con­fer­ence. They wanted to be the best.”

For the 2013 sea­son, the Ti­gers will carry forth the same goal — to make it back to the con­fer­ence tour­na­ment — but this time, it will be with a tar­get on their backs. Of course, next sea­son will not go without its chal­lenges: the squad is gradu­at­ing seni­ors that have been with the pro­gram since its in­cep­tion four years ago. Tough­er op­pon­ents have also been ad­ded to the con­fer­ence sched­ule. 

That said, things are cer­tainly look­ing up for the Holy Fam­ily wo­men’s lacrosse pro­gram.

“The ul­ti­mate goal as head coach is to be at the top of the con­fer­ence (year after year), not to just win one title,” Weber said.  “We want to be con­sidered the best.”

“The coaches are build­ing a pro­gram that every­one wants to be a part of,” McNesby said. “The uni­versity is grow­ing and we are win­ning. We have high hopes for next sea­son.” ••

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