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.” ••EndFragment