Fall in review: Top tri-campus players and performances in 2022

As the fall sports season draws to a close, The Observer awarded this year’s tri-campus All-Fall team, comprised of 11 players from teams across all three campuses. In addition, the Sports staff looked back at some of the top individual and team performances of the season. 

Michael Mayer, Notre Dame football

A PFF All-American, junior Michael Mayer became the Notre Dame tight end record holder in career receptions, yards and touchdowns. This season, Mayer notched 67 receptions for 809 yards and a career-high nine scores. He set season highs against BYU with 11 catches, 118 yards and two touchdowns. He added a second two-score game against USC in the season finale.

Olivia Markezich, Notre Dame cross country

Junior Olivia Markezich polished off a strong fall season with an All-American effort at the NCAA Championships. She finished eighth at the event, improving on her 11th-place finish last year. Markezich added a first-place finish at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional and a top-three finish at the ACC Championships. In the latter, she earned a personal best 19:29.7 time in the 6K.

Daniel Russo, Notre Dame men’s soccer

Junior forward Daniel Russo led the Irish men’s soccer team in both goals (six) and total points (16), tying for the team lead in assists with four. He started 11 games for Notre Dame this season and delivered in big ones. His hat trick against Michigan gave the Irish a pivotal win. And his game-tying strike against Pitt rescued a much-needed draw in the regular season finale.

Colleen McCarthy, Saint Mary’s volleyball

Colleen McCarthy dominated in her sophomore season with the Belles, earning All-MIAA second-team honors. McCarthy notched 321 kills, good for 3.41 per set. She added 309 digs and 28 service aces. Her best game came via a 27-kill performance on Oct. 22 vs. Averett. She led the team in kills and digs and was third in aces.

Joe Alt, Notre Dame football

After usurping the left tackle job last year, Joe Alt has stepped up as the anchor of the Irish offensive line. Alongside Mayer, Alt earned PFF first-team All-American honors. He was second in the country among tackles with a PFF grade of 91.8. His 99.3 pass-block efficiency tied for second among all FBS tackles, and his 90.8 run-blocking grade tied for first. Alt will return as Notre Dame’s left tackle next season. 

Hattie Monson, Notre Dame volleyball

One of the few holdovers on a roster loaded with freshmen and transfers, junior libero Hattie Monson delivered an exceptional season for the Irish. She finished third in the ACC in digs per set, ending the season with a 4.19 mark. Her season-high came against Boston College in a remarkable 27-dig performance. That was during a season-high four-game win streak for the Irish. Monson finished with at least 10 digs in 27 of 28 games this season.

Claudio Fuentealba, Holy Cross men’s soccer

An all-CCAC selection, Claudio Fuentealba anchored the Saints’ defense in 2022, leading them to a conference semifinal berth. He allowed just 0.93 per game while appearing in 18 of Holy Cross’s 19 contests. Fuentealba, a sophomore, earned seven shutouts and notched 53 saves. He earned CCAC player of the week in consecutive weeks and gave up just three goals in the Saints’ final eight games.

Korbin Albert, Notre Dame women’s soccer

A semifinalist for the MAC Hermann trophy, Korbin Albert dominated all season for the Irish and came on in a big way late in the year. The sophomore midfielder played for the U20 national team over the summer, then returned to lead the way for Notre Dame. She led the team with 16 goals and added five assists. Of those 16 goals, 14 came in a ten-game stretch starting on Oct. 6. Albert won ACC midfielder of the year, scored multiple goals on five occasions and delivered a hat trick in the ACC semifinals, scoring three times from long range.

Benjamin Morrison, Notre Dame football

A true freshman cornerback, Morrison cracked the starting lineup after just a few games. Morrison impressed all season, and he began racking up stats in a big way down the stretch. Against No. 4 Clemson, Morrison notched his first two interceptions, returning one for a touchdown. Two weeks later, he recorded three picks to end the regular season with five interceptions, the most by an Irish freshman in at least the last 25 years. It was the most interceptions by a Notre Dame player since Manti Te’o picked off seven passes in 2012.

Olivia Wingate, Notre Dame women’s soccer

A dominant goal-scorer all season, graduate student striker Olivia Wingate finished second on the team in goals with 14. She also tied Albert for the lead in assists with five. She more than doubled her career goal total, entering the season with 12 in her previous four seasons. Wingate notched a hat trick early in the year against a ranked Wisconsin team, one of four multi-goal efforts on the season. She added braces against a top-5 Florida State squad and in the NCAA Tournament versus Omaha. Her final goal was a game-winner versus TCU in the Sweet 16. 

Carter Solomon, Notre Dame Cross Country

Solomon became the second Irish runner in ACC championship history to earn the individual title. The sophomore’s 22:55.9 time in the 8K was a personal best and nearly a two-minute improvement from his 2021 effort. Later, at the NCAA championships, Solomon finished 18th, earning a personal best in the 10K of 29:18.8. 

Top Individual Performances

1. Ben Morrison two INT vs. Clemson, 11/5

It’s hard to make the stakes higher than this. The true freshman Morrison came up with a pair of key second-half interceptions. One set up the Irish to take a 21-0 lead against Clemson in the fourth quarter. The second, he returned 96 yards to seal the result, giving the Irish a top-5 victory over the previously unbeaten Tigers.

2. Korbin Albert hat trick vs. FSU, 11/3

Despite Notre Dame ultimately falling in penalty kicks, Albert put together a performance for the ages in the ACC Semifinals. She scored three times, including twice in 27 seconds in the second half. All three strikes came from well outside the box, two with her left foot from about 22 yards out and a 30-yard right-footed missile to open Notre Dame’s scoring in the game. Albert was recently named a semifinalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy, given to the top male and female college soccer players. 

3. Carter Solomon wins ACC Championship, 10/28

On Oct. 28, Carter Solomon became the second Irish champion in ACC Championship history to claim the individual conference crown, spurring Notre Dame to a fourth-place finish. Solomon blitzed the 8K course in a time of 22:55.9, which was good for the individual title by a mere 0.2 seconds. He went on to earn All-American honors at the NCAA Championships. 

4. Isaiah Foskey 3 sacks, 2 punt blocks vs. UNLV, 10/22

Sitting at 3-3, the Irish desperately needed a big performance against UNLV to get their season back on track. Senior defensive lineman Isaiah Foskey delivered with a dynamic effort. Foskey notched a season-high three sacks, which put him back on pace to set the program record, a number he’d achieve on Senior Day. Additionally, Foskey blocked a pair of punts, giving Notre Dame’s offense some short fields in a 44-21 victory.

5. Daniel Russo hat trick vs. Michigan, 10/25

Notre Dame entered a late-season non-conference clash versus rival Michigan needing a win to stay alive in the at-large NCAA Tournament conversation. Down 1-0 with under 30 minutes to play, the hope seemed low. However, junior forward Daniel Russo delivered the best performance of his career, striking for three second-half goals to help Notre Dame beat the Wolverines 3-2. He scored in the 61st minute. Then, after the Irish fell behind again, he scored twice in 1:43, notching the game-winner with under five minutes to play.

Top Team Moments

1. Notre Dame routs Clemson, storms field

In the biggest win of their season, Notre Dame upset unbeaten Clemson for the second time in three years, 35-14. Sophomore running backs Logan Diggs and Audric Estime combined for 218 yards on the ground, with Estime scoring a touchdown. Junior quarterback Drew Pyne threw for a score and ran for another. The Irish also scored on both defense and special teams, punctuating their victory with Benjamin Morrison’s second interception, a 96-yard pick-six in the fourth quarter. 

2. Irish women’s soccer upsets top-5 UVA

After a 7-0 record in non-conference play, the Irish lost to Clemson in their ACC opener. They entered a battle with No. 2 Virginia. Head coach Nate Norman had never won a top-10 game in his tenure with the Irish. But that changed on Sept. 22. The Irish dominated the Cavaliers in the field of play and eventually found the winner in the 76th minute, courtesy of senior midfielder Maddie Mercado. Notre Dame won, 1-0. The Irish went on to later beat another top-5 opponent, Florida State, later in the year.

3. Saints’ men’s soccer hosts first-ever CCAC quarterfinal, dominates

The Holy Cross Saints men’s soccer squad earned a program-first this fall, hosting a first-round CCAC playoff matchup. They earned the No. 4 seed in the tournament, their first top-four ranking in team history. That brought in a matchup with fifth-seeded Judson, and the Saints outclassed the visitors. Senior midfielder Elmin Ejup scored twice, including 87 seconds into the match on a free kick. The Saints dominated Judson, winning 3-0 to advance.

4. Notre Dame women’s soccer earns first No. 1 seed in 14 years 

For the first time in 14 years, Notre Dame women’s soccer earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Irish didn’t lose after Sept. 25 and went 4-1-3 against top-25 teams. That included a 4-0 win over ACC champion Florida State. Notre Dame also won a series of postseason awards, headlined by ACC Coach of the Year (Nate Norman), midfielder of the year (Korbin Albert) and defenseman of the year (Eva Gaetino). The Irish went on to dominate three straight NCAA Tournament games, outscoring a trio of opponents 11-0, before falling in the Elite Eight.

5. Notre Dame men’s soccer buzzer-beating win over UVA

In their best win of the 2022 season, the Irish went on the road against Virginia and found a last-gasp winner, courtesy of freshman KK Baffour. With the score tied 1-1, sophomore forward Matthew Roou gained possession off a late Virginia corner kick and played a through ball to Baffour. The freshman went 1-v-1 with the keeper and found the back of the net for the Irish win. It was Virginia’s only ACC loss of the season.


Saints throttle Eagles for home playoff win

Holy Cross College began its post-season run, facing Judson University in the first round of the CCAC Tournament.

The fourth-seeded Saints played host to the fifth-seeded Eagles, the first time that the Saints have played an opening-round playoff game at home. 

Aggressive style gives Holy Cross early lead

The Saints came out aggressive and were rewarded with an early free kick just outside the box. Elmin Ejup took the shot, crossing the ball from the right side of the field to the left side of the net, putting it past Judson keeper Mateo Ojetso.

According to head coach Omar Gallo, that sequence of events was all according to plan.

“Going into the game, we knew we wanted to put them under pressure immediately, to transition in certain parts of the field. Actually, going into the game, the game plan was if we get a free kick there is a certain free kick we wanted to do,” Gallo said. “Give the guys credit, the discipline, the execution. They followed through in what we wanted to do.”

Although the game settled down after the early goal, the Saints kept their up-tempo play, possessing the ball in the Judson third of the field and generating scoring opportunities. Judson eventually settled down and created chances via five first-half corner kicks.

As the first half began to wind down, Juan Perez forced a turnover and drove the ball down the right side, drawing a double team and freeing up Erick Zelaya, who caught Perez’s pass. Zelaya broke free of the defense and shot the ball, keeping it down low and to the right. It made it just past a diving Ojetso to put the Saints up 2-0.

Though the Saints felt confident after the first half, Gallo said that his squad stayed focused and maintained the composure they had started the game with.

“These guys at halftime though they had the lead, they were in [the locker room] saying it is 0-0, we must maintain our composure,” he said.

Saints add insurance, clinch shutout

In the 64th minute, Jeffrey Harper crossed the ball to Perez, who was waiting down low. Perez saw the Ejup open at the top of the box.  Perez got Ejup the ball, who drilled it past Ojesto.

Facing a 3-0 deficit, Judson would rally and have a few solid attempts late, but the Holy Cross defense remained solid, and Holy Cross goalie Claudio Fuentealba would deflect the only shot that wound up on net.

Thanks to a strong offensive showing by the Saints and arguably a better defensive effort, Holy Cross eliminated the Eagles from the CCAC Conference Tournament. Gallo credited his defense.

“The guys executed [the game plan] to perfection,” he said.

This likely ends the Eagle’s NAIA tournament ambitions, as the CCAC gives out two NAIA tournament bids, one to the regular season champion and one to the conference tournament champion. Judson is unlikely to receive one of the NAIA at-large bids.

The Saints, however, continue to the second round of the CCAC tournament. They will face the Olivet Nazarene Tigers, the regular season champions. The Saints tied the Tigers in their final regular season game 2-2.

Olivet is coming off an 8-2 victory against eighth-seed Saint Xavier. And though the Saints had their own emphatic victory, Gallo said that the team would continue to approach the game the way they had approached all the others before it.

“What is important right now is rest, recovery, stay disciplined this weekend…really important will be to sit back, relax a little bit, embrace the moment, enjoy the moment, and [then] back to work on Sunday,” he said.

The CCAC has not announced the game time for the semifinal. When the game is played, the Saints will travel on the road to face the Tigers in their home stadium in Bourbonnais, Illinois.

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Saints stomp Maple Leaves

The Holy Cross women’s basketball team dominated Goshen College on Saturday afternoon at home in McKenna Arena.

Senior guard Jayda Miller’s 33 points steered the Saints past the Maple Leaves 84-48.

Holy Cross scored first, getting on the board with a corner three from junior guard Lauren Morris less than a minute into the game.

Goshen countered quickly with a long two, but a rebound by sophomore forward Grace Adams led to a Miller three-pointer, giving the Saints a 6-2 advantage.

Three more Holy Cross buckets, including a layup and another three-pointer from Miller, drove the Saints ahead of the Maple Leaves 13-2 after four minutes of play, forcing Goshen to call a timeout.

The Maple Leaves knocked down a layup shortly after the break but were unable to change the narrative for the rest of the period.

The Saints, traversing speedily down the court in transition, jumping on loose balls and shooting clean from the three-point and free-throw lines, came away from the first quarter with an imposing 28-11 lead.

During the second quarter, the Saints continued to win the battle in the paint on both sides of the court. Sloppy play midway through the quarter generated quite a few more fouls against the Saints, but Maple Leaves failed to work this to their benefit.

The score at halftime stood at 44-28, and Holy Cross hustled off the court, anxious to complete the groundwork they had laid over the first 20 minutes of play.

Less than a minute into the third quarter, Morris picked up her fourth foul and was sat. Three more layups from Miller, amidst a good of deal possession squabbling and a Goshen bucket then hushed away any Maple Leaf momentum that could have come from the 15-minute break.

The Goshen press proved ineffective against Holy Cross, and the Saints built their lead, finishing ahead 60-39 at the end of the three quarters.

Holy Cross came out in the fourth quarter as hot as they’d been all game.

The Saints picked up four layups less than three minutes into the fourth, three by Adams and one by sophomore guard Jordyn Smith, before the Maple Leaves had the chance to put up any fourth quarter points.

The ample Goshen roster remained loud on the bench to the bitter end, but the Saints were the ones dribbling it out on their way to an 84-48 victory.

In the final period of play, Holy Cross tacked on 15 points to their third quarter lead, finishing as 36-point winners.

On top of Miller’s 33 points, Adams came away with 13 rebounds, six on offense, and Smith eked out six steals of her own.

Head coach Tom Robbins attributed the Saints’ firm performance to the squad’s preparation following a frustrating loss against Bethel on Thursday.

“We had a bad loss a couple of days ago and the players really took ownership amongst themselves and set some goals and really brought themselves together to prepare for this game,” Robbins said.

Robbins was impressed by his players ability to finish out the game, having played hard from start to finish.

“We had a lot of tired girls at the end of that game,” he said. “But we have enough. We were strong enough and in good enough shape to finish this game.”

Robbins credited Miller’s dominant offensive showing to the team’s young supporting talent. Unlike in previous years, the senior has not been forced to take so many shots.

“[Miller] has really developed some more shot selection that’s not always been the case,” he said. “I thought it really came through today, because she got really hot, and it would be a temptation for her to just keep shooting no matter what, but she kept within her lane.”

The defensive leadership from Adams and Smith stood out to Robbins as well.

“I felt like Grace and Jordyn Smith took the team on their back in a lot of different ways,” Robbins added. “Beyond just scoring … I thought those two players, they showed that everybody else this is how you win, this is what winning basketball looks like. Follow us.”

Saturday afternoon’s victory lifts Holy Cross to 2-2 on the season. The Saints will match-up against Indiana University South Bend (IUSB) Wednesday back on their home court.

“We’ve kind of had been developing a rivalry with [IUSB],” Robbins said. “They’re one of the best teams in our conference and one of the best teams in the region.”

As it stands, the rivalry is a little one sided — the Holy Cross woman have yet to beat the Titans.

“We look at them and I’m not sure they’re looking at us yet,” Robbins said. “We want that to be the case. We want to get them to a position where they’re starting to look at us as a threat.”

This early-season, statement win for the Saints is as if to say: we’re ready to compete locally and in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference at large.

The Saints are back home in South Bend to compete against the Titans on Wednesday. Tip-off is at 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time.

Contact Peter Breen at


Holy Cross women end season in CCAC quarterfinals

The Holy Cross College women’s soccer team recently played the Olivet women’s team in their opening round of the CCAC tournament.

The last time the two squads played, Olivet was able to defeat the Saints 0-3. Armed with a new strategy, the Saints hoped to shut down the Olivet offense, forcing turnovers to generate scoring chances.

Unfortunately for the Saints, things did not go according to plan.

Olivet was able to shoot early and often, taking 10 shots in the first half alone. The Saints were only able to shoot once, with senior midfielder Olivia Shaw taking the shot in the 26th minute.

Holy Cross sophomore goalie Taylor Primack faced four shots on goal in the first half, and she turned away all but one, which came in the 38th minute (scored by Olivet’s Annabel Murley). That 1-0 margin was the halftime score.

The Saints opened up the half with some early shots, but both missed the net. Olivet’s first shot of the half found twine, with Alaina Bahr assisting Olivia Lorenc for the score.

The Saints generated more offense in the second half than they did in the first, taking nine of their ten total shots.

However, Olivet’s goalie, Tessa Kowalski, shut out the Saints, and the Tigers would win 2-0.

Saints battled adversity to reach tournament

The Saints failed to earn either of the conference’s two automatic bids to the NAIA tournament and are unlikely to qualify for an at-large bid.

Instead, the Saints will finish their season with a 6-6-7 record overall and a 5-5-3 record in conference play.

The Saints had two notable bright spots this year, making history in two different ways. The team went 1-0-3 in an unbeaten non-conference regular season, which was a program first.

The Saints also saw senior midfielder Lauren Cernak break both the goal and assists records for the program. By setting those two records, Cernak earned 100 career points and became the career points leader for the program.

Though the season ended earlier than the team had hoped, the women’s season was able to battle through difficult injury problems, rallying late in the season to make the conference tournament.

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Saints battle, drop tight game to Pilots

After the Holy Cross women’s basketball team earned their first win against Huntington University, 64-61, the Saints lost 68-99 to Grace College. 

Grace had a much better time moving the ball, and they had 28 assists to Holy Cross’s 13 and scored 25 points on the fast break (Holy Cross only had three). Grace also offensively dominated the Saints in the paint, scoring 64 points down low. 

So, with a blowout loss leaving a sour taste in the Saint’s mouth, the squad turned its attention to its home opener against hometown rival Bethel. Head coach Tom Robbins said that the combination of playing a rival and the blowout loss motivated the team. 

“We did not play the kind of basketball that we wanted to play against Grace, so two days later, it is a chance to redeem yourself. That is the mentality we want our players to have,” he said.

Saints start fast

The Pilots have owned the series in the last five meetings, boasting a four-game winning streak, with the Saints not having won since 2017. Holy Cross got off to a fast start and stayed with the Pilots all game, but they couldn’t quite get over the hump, falling 76-70. 

The Saints came out aggressively in the first quarter, going 10 of 20 from two-point range to take a 20-14 lead over the Pilots at the end of the first quarter. A strong Bethel shooting performance from behind the arc got the Pilots back into the game, but the Saints led 32-31 at the half. 

Robbins said the team was unsatisfied with how they let Bethel play toward the end of the half. 

“We were up ten at one point,” he said. “And we felt like we let them come back in that game to finish out the second quarter. What we wanted to do was reestablish ourselves from what we had done earlier in the game.”

Bethel squeaks by in back-and-forth second half

The Saints reestablished themselves by taking a 48-43 lead with just under two minutes to go in the 3rd quarter. However, Bethel hit some key shots, including a three to tie the game at 48 apiece. Ultimately, it was a one-point game at the break. 

Coming into the fourth quarter Holy Cross took a 53-50 lead thanks to a jump shot from sophomore forward Grace Adams. Unfortunately for the Saints, the Pilots got hot from behind the arc, hitting three unanswered shots from downtown as Bethel went on an 11-point run. 

As the game crossed the five-minute mark, sophomore guard Jordyn Smith got hot, hitting a jump shot and a clutch three to tie the game at 63 with just four minutes to go. Senior guard Jayda Miller was then able to hit another three a minute later to give the Saints a 66-63 lead. 

However, Bethel’s Ellia Foster went on a run of her own and scored the game’s next seven points, and with 33 seconds left, gave the Pilots a four-point lead. 

Though the Saints cut the lead to 71-68, Bethel did just enough to hold onto the win.

Rebounding and 3-point defense woes doom Saints 

The Saints were outrebounded by a margin of 47-28, which allowed the Pilots to score 22 second-chance points. Holy Cross only scored five off of rebounds. 

It is a trend that, if it continues, could prove a significant difficulty for the Saints.

The Saints allowed Bethel to shoot 10 of 17 from deep, including four shots in the fourth quarter. That means the Saints allowed Bethel to shoot 58.8% beyond the arc, canceling out the 27 points that the Saints got off turnovers. Robbins emphasized that the girls have some work to do on guarding the perimeter. 

“I told the girls just because you are standing in front of them does not mean you are guarding them,” he said. “You have to get your hand over the ball. You have to make them take the ball out of their shooting pocket. If they are standing there with the ball in their shooting pocket, they are comfortable, and they have to be uncomfortable.”

The Saints next turn their attention to the Goshen College Maple Leafs when they play again in McKenna Arena, on Nov. 5, at 1 p.m. 


Bethel overwhelms Holy Cross with three-point attack

Holy Cross men’s basketball made the crosstown trip to Bethel Wednesday night and promptly ran into an avalanche. The Pilots sunk the Saints 80-55 in Mishawaka behind a staggering 14-for-31 mark from three-point range. With the loss, Holy Cross fell to 1-1 on the young season and is now 1-16 in its last 17 meetings with Bethel.

The Pilots could not have started the game any better, opening on a 20-2 run in the first five minutes. During that time frame, senior guard Drew Lutz buried four three-pointers, and freshman guard Chikara Tanaka connected on two. The Holy Cross deficit stretched as wide as 26 points before the Pilots took a 48-26 lead into halftime. The Saints struggled mightily to keep up with the Bethel onslaught. At the break, Holy Cross had shot just 35.7% from the field with two three-pointers made, while the Pilots had poured in 12 triples at a 53.3 field goal percentage. The Saints’ leading scorer, senior forward Mick Sullivan, contributed seven points in the first half. However, three Pilots totaled seven points or more, with Lutz amassing 23 points in the first 20 minutes.

Bethel cooled off from distance to open the second half, while freshman forward Tommy Snyder made some noise for the Saints. He picked up eight points in the first 4:07 of the period, but the Pilots maintained a healthy lead. The margin eventually ballooned to 79-42, as the Saints failed to score for nearly four minutes midway through the second half. Holy Cross ended the game on a 13-1 run. A buzzer-beating three from freshman guard Drew Adzia ended the game, but it was all for naught. Bethel’s laser-focused offensive buildup was insurmountable, as the Pilots secured a 25-point home victory.

The Pilots’ recipe for success was simple, yet highly effective. They shot the lights out of the basketball. By making 14 trifectas and limiting Holy Cross to three of them, Bethel commanded the action from the start. While the Saints executed passably from the field (38.6 FG%) and equaled the Pilots with 36 rebounds, their 18 turnovers factored into 26 Bethel points. 

For the Saints, Mick Sullivan reeled in 13 points in just 19 minutes, while Tommy Snyder flirted with a double-double (11 points, 9 rebounds). Their two highest scorers still fell short of Bethel’s second-highest scorer alone. Chikara Tanaka and Drew Lutz torched Holy Cross for 25 and 28 points, respectively, nearly outscoring the visitors themselves. The two also combined for nine assists, and Lutz drained eight three-pointers on eleven attempts. Four Pilots hauled down at least five rebounds, backing up the two offensive juggernauts with a consistent, widespread team effort.

The Saints have no time to dwell on the one-sided defeat. They will head to IU-South Bend for the Crossroads-Chicagoland Challenge against the Goshen Maple Leafs. Holy Cross has taken each of the last two in-state matchups with Goshen. That game will be played at 6:00 p.m, immediately followed by Bethel and IU-South Bend at 8:00 p.m.


In a season of firsts, Saints look to extend season in playoffs

This season has had many firsts for the Holy Cross College soccer teams.

The women’s team went undefeated for the first time in non-conference regular season play (including a win over Goshen, which is also a first).

The men’s team matched it with an equally impressive 11 straight conference games without a loss, the longest in program history, which helped them to a first-ever top-4 finish in program history.

Head Coach Omar Gallo became the first coach in program history to reach the 100-win mark when the men’s team defeated Indiana University Northwest.

Axel Valenzuela became the program points leader for the men’s program, becoming the first player to total over 54 points in his four years. Lauren Cernak became the goals and assists leader for the women’s program, becoming one of the first players to break 100 career points for the Saints.

And on Friday at 3 p.m., when the Holy Cross men’s team faces off against Judson at Saints Field to begin the CCAC Conference Tournament, they will add another.

This is the first time in program history that the Saints have hosted an opening-round playoff game (they have hosted later rounds in years prior via upsets). Should they beat Judson, it would become the Saint’s first-ever first-round playoff home win, something Gallo is ready to achieve.  

“From an achievement standpoint [hosting a first-round game] has definitely been a goal for us as a program,” he said. “Like any other goal, the minute you accomplish one goal, you want to achieve greater heights.”

Saints face difficult matchup in Judson

The Judson University Eagles are by no means an easy opponent for the Saints. Back in early September, the two teams played a gritty game that ended in a 1-1 tie. The game served as a way for the Saints to learn and grow, and it was the first game of their conference undefeated streak.

“We look at [the Judson game] as a game that allowed us to continue to grow as a team and, more importantly, allowed Claudio [Fuentealba] to grow as a goalkeeper,” Gallo said. “The way we approached it a few days after that game, showing film to the players, they understood the mistakes that we made.”

The Saints will have a few critical problems to deal with. First, Judson has a dynamic offense that offers off-the-ball difficulties. The Saints must counter that dynamism with cohesive defensive play.

Judson also boasts an incredibly tall attacking line. It will limit the Saints’ ability to have high attacking lines, as the Saints like to move the ball through the air. In this game, they will be limited to the ground, where they feel they have a better advantage, according to Gallo.

“[What makes them challenging to play] is their mobility off the ball, the interchanging of their players, how big they make the field … but if we do not do our job defensively, their players are very mobile, very technically sound on the ball and have a direct mindset to go to the goal and score,” he said. “We are just going to have to be disciplined defensively.

Saints to utilize home field advantage

Judson has been a particularly tough team for the Saints historically. Including this season’s 1-1 draw, the Saints are 5-8-2, dating back to 2009. In the two squads’ last five meetings, however, the Saints have gone 2-2-1, with the Eagles having a two-goal differential advantage.

Gallo is particularly excited that the team now has a home-field advantage.

“It gives us a greater opportunity to win,” he said. “Any time you are playing at home you have the fan support, the guys are used to the environment there is no need to travel … it allows them to stay within their routine.”

Should the Saints defeat the Eagles, their likeliest opponent would be top-seeded and nationally ranked Olivet Nazarene, whom they tied 2-2 in their regular-season finale.  

The Saints, though, are not overlooking anyone. Instead, they are looking to take it one game at a time, Gallo said.

“Everyone has bought into one game at a time,” he stated. “What I appreciate the most is the mindset of the guys; they have grown through every game, and the key factor is the discipline over the course of these last 11 games.”

Women’s team looks to stay hot, pull upset

Much like the men’s team, the women’s team put together a solid undefeated streak, winning three of their last five games and securing their spot in the playoffs. Unlike the men’s team, however, the women’s team will head on the road to Bourbonnais, Illinois, to face the regular season champion, the Olivet NazareneTigers.

The Saints were not quite able to finish their season on a 4-0-1 streak. Their first-round opponent, Olivet Nazarene foiled those hopes in the season finale. In that game, the Saints lost 0-3 in a game that might seem like a bit of a lopsided affair on paper. Instead, Gallo sees it as a lesson the team can use to grow.

“As coaches, every moment is a teachable moment,” he said. “When you go back and you look at the result we had last week, we were actually pleased with the way we played from an attacking standpoint. We conceded a couple of goals that we know that if we limit those mistakes, we have a chance to actually go there and win against Olivet.”

Historically, the Saints are 0-14 against the Tigers. However, Gallo and the coaching staff both believe that the new adjustments they have made will allow them to compete with the Tigers.

“The last game we played against them, we went into more of a high pressing defensive shape,” he said. “This game, we are going into more of a mid-block and focus a lot on keeping the ball in front of us and forcing them to get impatient and pick our moments to win the ball and transition and counter them.”

The two teams are set to face off on Nov. 5 in Illinois at noon CDT.

Contact Tom Zwiller at


Turnovers plague Saints in loss to Grace

Holy Cross women’s basketball made the 50-mile trip to Winona Lakes, IN Tuesday night for a non-conference battle with Grace College. The Saints edged out Huntington on opening night to start their year with a win. However, this one was a very different story. Grace gave Holy Cross all it could handle, hammering out a 99-68 win for its second consecutive victory with a 30-plus point margin. With the loss, the Saints have now dropped five of their last six meetings with the Lancers.

From the initial tip-off, Grace’s offense was in sync. The Lancers charged out to a 10-3 lead in the game’s first four minutes, as junior center Karlee Feldman collected a quick six points. Holy Cross then closed the gap with the help of sophomore guard Jordyn Smith. She made two three-pointers and scored eight points in the final six minutes of the first quarter. That brought the Saints to a 19-17 deficit at the end of the frame. 

The Lancers opened up a 51-38 halftime lead on the shoulders of a 32-point second quarter. Junior guard Kiersten Findley amassed ten points in a span of less than two minutes, leading a well-balanced Grace attack. Smith tallied eight more points in quarter two, but the Saints were bitten by eight turnovers and a 39.1 field goal percentage. On the other hand, Grace delivered at a 72.2% clip from the field to take control of the game. 

Both offenses mellowed out a bit in the third quarter, as Grace outscored Holy Cross 22-17. The Saints shot 43.2% to Grace’s 40%, but a late seven-point surge from junior guard Jenna Blakley kept the Lancers firmly out in front. Blakley contributed 10 more points in the fourth quarter, which happened to be Grace’s most dominant frame. The Lancers outscored the Saints 26-13 and outshot them 57.9% to 25% from the field, wrapping up an impressive 99-68 victory.

Jordyn Smith shined for the Saints with 24 points, making 9 of 13 field goals and connecting on five three-pointers. However, Smith did not receive much help.

Holy Cross had three other players in double-figures in Saturday’s win, but Smith was the only one Tuesday night. Sophomore guard Kayliana Hammel added five rebounds and a team-high five assists. The Saints lost the turnover battle 24-16, as Grace collected 15 steals. The Lancers outscored Holy Cross 25-3 in fast-break points. Four different players scored at least 15 points for the Lancers, spearheaded by Karlee Feldman’s double-double performance (22 points, 11 rebounds). She shot an impressive 10-for-13 from the field. Jenna Blakley (17 points) and Kiersten Findley (19 points) each shot over 50%.

The Saints will play each of their next six games at home. That stretch begins with a matchup with Bethel on Thursday night. Holy Cross has lost four straight matchups with the Pilots, including a 98-74 defeat a year ago.

Contact Tyler Reidy at


Holy Cross women’s soccer finishes regular season with a shutout defeat

The Holy Cross College women’s soccer team concluded its regular season Wednesday when they faced off against Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois.

The Saints came into the game hoping to move up in the conference standings. A win-along with a Judson and Saint Xavier loss this weekend could have moved the Saints into sixth in the conference standings, making the bracket in the conference tournament a little bit easier. 

Instead, the Saints took a tough road loss to finish their regular season.  Holy Cross struggled to generate offense in the first half, attempting only one shot, while Olivet took seven. The Saints were also only able to generate one corner kick to Olivet’s three. 

Olivet capitalized on their chances early. Sara Loichinger assisted Melea Miller midway through the first half to give Olivet a lead they would not lose.

The Saints’ hopes of catching up to Olivet were dashed almost immediately in the second half, with the Tigers’ Alaina Bahr scoring an unassisted goal in the 46th minute. Almost 15 minutes later, Marissa Anderson would score the third goal, also unassisted. Her goal put Olivet up 3-0, which would also serve as the final score.

The Saints finish their regular season with an overall record of 6-5-7 and a conference record of 5-5-3.

While the Saints certainly could have used the win to progress in the standings, the loss is not overly damaging. Thanks to a 5-1 win against Roosevelt University back on Oct. 12, the Saints have a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Lakers. So even if the Lakers win their regular-season finale on Friday, Holy Cross has the edge.

The only question remaining for the women is who their opponent will be. The Saints are firmly locked into the No. 8 seed, meaning they will be on the road no matter what. It also means the Saints will face off against the top-seeded regular season conference champions. 

There are currently three teams who could wind up as the conference regular season champs: the Cardinal Stritch Wolves, the Olivet Nazarene Tigers and the Saint Ambrose Fighting Bees. Stritch and Olivet are currently tied at 31 points apiece. Ambrose is just behind with 29 points.

Olivet finishes its regular season against CCAC foe Calumet, with the game kicking off at 11 a.m. CT. This matchup would be shocking if Olivet did not win. Calumet is last in the conference at 0-11 in CCAC play with just one goal for and 83 goals against.

Stritch is playing host to St. Francis Illinois, a playoff team looking to move up in the standings to snag a home playoff game. Considering that Stritch boasts a 9-3 record against St. Francis with six consecutive wins against them, the Wolves will likely win their matchup too.

St. Ambrose also plays on Saturday but faces a non-conference foe. They will not play their final conference matchup until Nov. 1, when they take on Calumet, which should also be a relatively easy win.

Given that all three of these games would seem to be reasonably easy wins, St. Ambrose is the least likely Holy Cross opponent, as they would need both Olivet and Stritch to lose, along with a win, in order to move into first with 32 points.

The likely scenario is that Stritch and Olivet both win, giving them 34 points apiece, meaning it would come down to tiebreakers. The CCAC bylaws state that the first tiebreak in a conference standings tie is a head-to-head result. Since Olivet won against Stritch 3-1 in early October, Olivet is likely to become the regular season champion.

It also means that when the conference tournament begins on Nov. 5, the Holy Cross Saints will pick up right where they left off — facing the Olivet Nazarene Tigers in Bourbonnais, Illinois.

Contact Tom Zwiller at


‘The Art of Faith’ exhibit now open at Holy Cross

In an effort to showcase the diversity of religious art in the area and celebrate the intersection of artwork and the Catholic faith, Angelo Ray Martinez, a Holy Cross professor and the director of the St. Joseph Gallery organized and curated ‘The Art of Faith.’ Open to visitors on the Holy Cross campus until Dec. 16, this exhibition features 10 artists from a variety of artistic and Catholic backgrounds, all with the united vision of sharing what faith looks like to them. 

The pieces on show include both artwork commissioned specifically for the exhibit and pieces like that of Melonie Mulkey, an adjunct professor of visual arts. Her work, ‘The Five Wounds,’ was featured in a two-person exhibition called ‘Innermost’ at the University of Notre Dame earlier this year.

Mulkey’s work ‘The Five Wounds’ is on display in the St. Joesph Gallery until Dec. 16. / Courtesy of Angelo Ray Martínez

Mulkey, an experienced artist, said this exhibit is different than some of the others she has been in.

“This is, in a really long list of exhibitions, the first one I’ve been in that specifically addresses and talks about faith,” Mulkey said.

Mulkey’s excitement at the unique nature of the exhibition and its artwork is also reflected in local artist and high school art teacher Anastassia (Tess) Cassady, who made last year’s Paschal candle for the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.

“Fusing Catholicism and interesting, heartfelt and original art is something that hasn’t been seen in a long time,” she said. “When I do something that’s artistic and religious, fellow artists will respect the artistry of it but can say ‘I don’t want anything to do with Christianity, why would you mix the two’ so I was really impressed with the fact [Martinez] found such a wide variety of art.”

Bringing together the local community of Catholic artists was a major component of Martinez’ vision, he said.

“There aren’t a lot of art venues that dedicate themselves to exhibiting contemporary faith-based artworks, so it can be difficult to find the conversations and discourse that is necessary to progressing your work,” Martinez said.

This type of collaboration is something Cassady said she is all for and thinks it could serve a greater purpose in reaching the wider Catholic community.

“I think it’s a great idea, especially for parishes to have someplace to both bring artists together, but also educate the congregation with original artwork that they have never seen before, rather than the same printouts that are faded [churches] that they don’t really notice anymore — not because it’s not striking, but that it’s nothing new,” she explained.

Martinez expressed that he hopes both Catholics and non-Catholics can gain something from the exhibit.

“I hope that visitors are able to reflect on their own Catholic faith in a deeper way if they are of the faith, and if they are not, that they are able to better appreciate some of the beauty and mysteries of Catholicism,” Martinez said.

As for the effects of this exhibition, Mulkey said she is confident it will make a positive impact on the Catholic communities’ response to more modern, faith-based art.

Contact Kate Naessens at