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Tuesday, May 21, 2024
The Observer

Holy Cross women’s soccer builds ‘trust and grit,’ set program records

The Holy Cross Saints women’s soccer team closed out another strong season last November with an 11-5-3 overall record. 

The Saints opened their fourth season under Coach Omar Gallo with a win in a non-conference matchup against Bethel University. The Saints maintained the momentum from their initial win throughout the season. They won five games by at least five goals. All but one loss came by just one goal. They finished 8-4-1 in CCAC play. They also set a program record with four all-conference recipients. Gallo attributed this success to the discipline and leadership displayed by the girls on and off the pitch.  

“On the pitch, they’ve stayed disciplined, especially on the defensive side...The girls were top 10 in shutouts,” Gallo said. “They’ve created a mentality of having a high work rate when we don’t have the ball... this style, mindset and discipline allowed the girls to also set [offensive] records.”

This defensive prowess displayed itself as the Saints posted 11 shutouts. While the girls continue to excel on the pitch, Gallo says that off the pitch is where he is most proud of the team. They continue to impress him with the volunteer work that they do within the community and on campus. Gallo commended team captains Lauren Cernak, Olivia Shaw and Kassidi Puthoff for making possible the team’s collective character and success. 

These captains definitely strengthened the team’s bond off the field but also individually performed on the pitch. Shaw became the program’s all-time goals scored leader when she scored in the seventh minute to begin an 11-0 win versus IUSB. They notched ten goals on senior day, defeating Calumet. Senior Lauren Cernak scored four goals, helping the Saints achieve a 10-0 victory.

‘A group that came together more than ever’

While the Saints walked away from most of their games with victory, the season still experienced some challenging match-ups. The Saints’ final game took place in the CCAC quarterfinals against the No. 3 seed Trinity Christian College. After being outshot 10-3 in the first half, Saints’ goalkeeper Taylor Primack kept the game at 0-0 entering half. Trinity Christian scored first to take the 1-0 lead and then added another goal in the 67th minute. Shaw and Audrey Filippo responded to tie up the game to 2-2. The game resulted in a shootout as both teams refused to allow any goals in either overtime. Trinity Christian ultimately edged out the Saints in the shootout and advanced to the next round.

When asked about his favorite or most memorable game from the season, Gallo spoke about this game: “You may be asking why a loss was my favorite moment. We were down 2-0 with 20 minutes left in the season against a team that we’ve never beaten in the history of the program. Until this past season, the women’s program has never scored against them as well... within 10 minutes we scored two goals to tie the match and almost won it in the last seconds… we saw a level of trust, a group that came together more than ever and grit from every player that was on the pitch. It was that moment where I believe the girls realized they could compete with any team in our conference and despite the result, I knew we were going to have a very determined group come this spring.”

Saints look to build on 2021

Even the disappointment of a loss can not stop the Saints. The team is energized and hungry for redemption. The Saints now welcome a recruiting class that Gallo says they are excited about. The Saints’ 2021 season laid a strong foundation for the future, as the women continue to strengthen their bond and character as a team while developing their skills and mindset to continue to improve on the pitch. They’ll look to build on it with a strong 2022 season.