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Monday, March 4, 2024
The Observer

Gallo recounts Saints’ first winning season in years

This year, the Holy Cross women’s soccer team came away with a 9-8-1 record, a major turnaround from the 3-12 season that preceded it. This was an active shift completed by head coach Omar Gallo, associate head coach Duma Magagula and the team itself.

“First thing we did was go out and recruit the players we thought could fit in the system we were trying to run,” Gallo said in an email interview. “We retained seven players and brought in 17 new players, including five transfers who added some experience to our roster. Everyone bought in and it created a good team culture that eventually showed on the field. We set a few team goals and one of them was to win a certain number of games, which we did. We took a lot of time watching and breaking down film and preparing for each game and that led to our success.”

And this success had even more potential, as their home record remained almost identical to last year’s. That, however, was not due to lack of effort according to Gallo.

“We were just unfortunate at home, the [biggest loss] being a 2-nil margin. Most of the home games went to the wire and [we] lost in the last few minutes of the game.” Gallo begins. He then concedes, “This is an area we definitely have to improve on and is something we will focus on as we head into next season. Winning your homes games, especially in conference always gives you an opportunity to play in the playoffs, so we have no choice but to improve. “

Overall, however, Gallo attributed the newfound success to the team.

“Captains did a lot off the field, organizing bonding events and that helped change the culture right away,” he said. “When you can create a good culture, results are easier to come by.”

Gallo also credited the seven returning players with building the team’s success, as well as freshman Olivia Shaw, who was named to the CCAC All-Conference First Team.

“Olivia is one of the most determined and competitive individuals I’ve ever met,” he said. “Whether it’s training, team bonding activities or a match, she’s going to want to win. She is a player that is willing to put the team on her shoulders in pressure situations and basically say, ‘It’s ok girls, I got us.’ Very rarely do you find players like that and we were lucky to have her a part of our team because players feed off her energy. She knows she’s one of the top players in the league but doesn’t accept that. She wants to be the best and wants our team to win and that alone brings out the best in her teammates.”

It is Shaw‘s energy and that of the team surrounding her that excites Gallo about the incoming recruits as well, he said.

“This year’s class will continue to add to our depth which is something we will benefit from,” Gallo says. “We were very selective with our 2020 class because we brought in a large class (17) in 2019. We focused on bringing in girls who have a winning mentality. Whether it’s winning on the pitch, in life or in the classroom, we needed to figure out a way to continue to drive the competitiveness within our team. Each girl has been successful, whether it’s academically or athletically, and I feel this is going to help us.”

The team will benefit on and off the field from recruits with those qualities, especially in pursuit of one of their main goals for the upcoming season: to continue to have a positive impact in the community and staying connected with TOPSoccer, an “outreach program for kids with mental and physical disabilities.”

“This program has helped shape our young women and is a program we value a lot,” Gallo said.