Saints post winningest record in program history, advance to CCAC semifinals for first time
Liam Coolican | Friday, May 21, 2021
When Omar Gallo took over the Holy Cross women’s soccer team in 2018, he inherited a two-win program. After a tough first year, in which the team won just three games, Gallo elected to keep just six players from the 2018 roster for the next year.
Despite the lack of experience, Gallo guided the Saints to their first conference tournament appearance in program history in 2019. After the pandemic forced this year’s season to move to the spring, the Saints pushed through the adversity and finished 9-4-1, the winningest record in program history. They also advanced to the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) tournament semifinals for the first time.
After defeating Trinity International University in the quarterfinals, the Saints battled Cardinal Stritch University for 110 minutes. The contest finished 0-0 after two overtimes, and the Saints fell in a shootout.
Despite the youth of the team — this year’s squad is only Gallo’s second recruiting class — he said that the experience of the team was important.
“The experience definitely plays a key part in our success,” Gallo said. “They were quite prepared for [the conference tournament] this time. They knew what the atmosphere was going to consist of.”
The Saints were led by sophomore midfielder Olivia Shaw, who was named to the CCAC first team for the second year in a row. Shaw paced the team with five goals and nine assists.
“[It is] something special for our program,” Gallo said. “It just shows the kind of caliber of girls we’re bringing in.”
Senior defender Bella Cuevas, who anchored the Saints back line and scored two game winning goals, was named to the all-conference second team for the second year in a row. She helped the Saints give up a program-low 19 goals this year.
“She’s the anchor of the team,” Gallo said.
Junior midfielder Lauren Cernak was also named to the second team. She scored four goals and assisted on seven more.
Gallo was also named CCAC co-coach of the year.
“From a recruiting standpoint, it definitely opens up many people’s eyes,” Gallo said of the honors.
The Saints return most of their production next year, with Shaw and Cernak returning, and senior defender Audrey Fillipo being granted an additional year of eligibility to finish her degree. Gallo also singled out sophomore midfielder Nicole Cook as someone who doesn’t get as much recognition as she deserves.
“If we scored 40 goals this season, she had the assist before the assist on at least 35 of them,” Gallo said.
Gallo wants his team to continue their success, on and off the field.
“We want to maintain a 3.2 team GPA,” he said. “As a team, we set our goals to be involved in at least four to five events in the community, or on campus to be a part of the student body. From a playing standpoint, we want to be able to finish top three and give ourselves an opportunity to get to the national championship.”