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Sports

Young Holy Cross WBB team trending upwards under Robbins

| Friday, May 21, 2021

Despite two pandemic-affected seasons as head coach, Holy Cross women’s basketball coach Tom Robbins has the Saints on the rise, after his young roster took some big steps forward in a strong conference. 

The Saints had a tough draw, as they took on the top five teams in the conference a combined eight times, tough sledding for a squad with no seniors and five freshmen. Ahead of the brutal conference slate, Holy Cross started their season 4-4, buoyed by an impressive record on their home court, as the Saints went 4-2 in a six-game home stretch, including a thoroughly impressive 76-51 beatdown of Governors State, who ended up finishing fifth in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC). 

“Even though we didn’t have a home court advantage in terms of fans, we did have a home court advantage in that gym” Robbins said of his team’s success at home. “That’s where we were grinding it out in practice every day with that mentality — that they’re coming into this sweatbox of a gym that we got, that we’ve been putting blood and sweat into, so how are you going to experience us in our environment.” 

The Saints flirted with a .500 record for much of the season, but road struggles and a brutal schedule to end their season saw them matched up against the #1, #3, #4 and #5 seeds in their final five games. That stretch coincided with losing their second leading scorer, junior guard Arielle Thatcher (13.9 ppg), to a season-ending injury, resulting in a regular-season-ending five-game skid for Robbins’ squad. 

“Despite the fact that we lost those games, we were playing some of our best basketball in terms of our defense, our ball movement and our rebounding,” Robbins said, noting that a low shooting percentage was frequently the Saints’ undoing. 

Despite the skid, Holy Cross snuck into the conference tournament as the 11th-seed and gave 6th-seeded Saint Ambrose a serious upset scare, before dropping the first-round contest by four points. 

“To have that experience is invaluable,” Robbins said of the tournament, “This year, we were in it to win it, but it’s new, everything’s new. You’ve got to get past the hurdle, and we were able to get past that this year. The expectation going forward is that we win the thing.”

Reflecting on the season, Robbins praised the invaluable leadership from his junior class on his younger roster.

“The chemistry of our team is really good — it’s great for recruiting. A lot of that is because of [junior center] Sara White — her leadership has been tremendous. Ariel Thatcher was very good in communicating the work ethic and the culture that we expect.”

Robbins also praised his on-court leader in sophomore Jayda Miller, who earned all-conference honorable mention, averaging 16.9 points per game.

“It’s not uncommon to walk into the gym and see Jayda getting shots up, working out early in the day,” Robbins said. “She really developed her game from year one to year two.” 

Miller will be back with the Saints next season, who lose junior Sidney Taylor to her early graduation. The team adds four freshmen, as Holy Cross looks to continue their upward trend in the CCAC under Robbins.

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