(Notre Dame, Ind.) The Holy Cross Saints women's basketball program concluded another memorable season under second year head coach Aimee Niespodziany.
A season filled with memorable performances, both individual and team, has continued to show the growth of the Saints women's basketball program.
Although the season ended with a first round exit in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) tournament against Calumet College of St. Joseph, the Saints achieved a program best ten wins for the second consecutive season (10-21 overall).
"I'm pleased with the progress that the team showed this season," said coach Aimee. "With the way the schedule was made this year we played a lot of tough teams. As the season went on, I thought we really came together and could compete against anyone we played. I think the future is very bright for our team."
After a season opener loss at Grace College in late October, the Saints opened up at home in November in style against Goshen College (11/2/12), which became one of the more exciting games at McKenna Arena this season.
Junior All-Conference member Lindsey Steffen (Nappanee, Ind.) became the first player in Saints women's basketball history to join the 1,000 point club after knocking down two of her game high 22 points just minutes into the start of the second half.
The drama in this game, however, was far from finished. Trailing by one with 13 seconds left to play, senior Lauren Malinowski (Dearborn Heights, Mich.) went coast-to-coast and knocked down the game winning shot for the Saints with three seconds left on the clock en route to the Saints first win of the 2012-2013 season.
Malinowski continued to show throughout the month of November why she has been one of the greatest players in Saints women's basketball history as she too eclipsed the 1,000 point milestone, joining teammate Lindsey Steffen, on the road against Cardinal Stritch University (11/24/12).
The Saints saw their first two-game winning streak of the season during the month of December after rallying off back-to-back home wins against fellow conference member Judson University and Lawrence Technological University. It was during this month of December where the Saints got a big boost from junior Francesca McCarthy (Terre Haute, Ind.) who enjoyed a breakout season. McCarthy put together an impressive month of December averaging 12.1 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. Included in this stretch was her first career double-double and four straight games where she scored at least 17 points. McCarthy finished with two double-doubles on the season.
The month of January turned out to be the most difficult for the Saints schedule wise as they faced off against four teams who qualified for the NAIA Division II Women's National Tournament. After struggling against Saint Xavier early in the month, the Saints gave then sixth ranked Olivet Nazarene all they could handle at home. Despite falling to the Tigers 89-84, the Saints showed a determination on the floor that they weren't going to move over and let a team walk out of McKenna Arena without a fight. The Saints held the Tigers under their season average 100 points per game.
After taking eventual conference champion Roosevelt University down to the wire in Chicago, the Saints came home and achieved a milestone victory against No. 15 ranked Cardinal Stritch University. A rather lopsided history between the two schools had the Saints falling in every previous matchup. But on Wednesday, January 23rd, the Saints put together an impressive performance in front of their home fans to achieve the biggest win in the young history of the women's basketball program at Holy Cross. The Saints defeated Cardinal Stritch 63-61 after holding off a late surge where their once 15 point lead was cut down to just one. The win signified the first every victory in Holy Cross basketball history over a top 25 opponent.
The Saints picked up one final win on the season on February 13th after completing the sweep over conference opponent Trinity International University; the win gave the program their second consecutive season with ten wins.
On Saturday, February 16th, the women's basketball team sent off four member of the program before their final game at McKenna Arena. Lauren Malinowski, Angela Byrd (Harvey, Ill.), Jacques Donaldson (South Bend, Ind.) and manager Katherine Ziola were all recognized by their family and friends in front of the largest crowd at McKenna Arena this season.
"It has been a pleasure to be around this group of girls these past two seasons," said coach Aimee Niespodziany. "We've come so far in helping turn a brand new program into a consistent up-an-coming team. I'm truly proud of this senior class and how instrumental they've been to leading us into where we've become."
In reflecting on the season, coach Aimee Niespodziany likes where the team is at heading into next season.
"We had a number of girls step up this year when their number was called," continued coach Niespodziany. "When other players were hurt, we knew we could count on our bench to come in and get the job done. I'm proud of the heart the entire team played with this season. They're a great group to be around."
Lindsey Steffen was named an All-CCAC Honorable Mention during the 2012-2013 season. Steffen led the Saints in scoring (12.9 per game) and rebounding (8.1 per game). This is the third straight season that Steffen has made an All-League team. Lindsey also finished with 10 double-doubles.
Lauren Malinowski closed out her career as number two in career points (1,252) and number one in career assists (376). Malinowski will finish with career averages of 13.5 points , 3.6 rebounds , 4.0 assists and 2.4 steals per game while appearing in 93 career games.
Francesca McCarthy enjoyed a career breakout year where she averaged career highs in points (9.3 per game) and rebounding (5.0 per game).
Angela Byrd scored a career high 18 points against Olivet Nazarene (11/14/12). She finishes her career appearing in 59 games while averaging 5.0 points and 1.4 rebounds per game.
Jacques Donaldson is the lone original member of the inaugural Holy Cross women's program that began in 2009. She will graduate this coming spring. Donaldson will finish her career appearing in 110 games (most in school history) and averaging 3.7 points and 1.7 rebounds per game.
Katherine Ziola closes out her three years as team manager and will graduate this spring with a degree in English. She will always be remembered as the biggest Saints fan in the building!
On behalf of Holy Cross Athletics, we'd like to congratulate the women's program on another memorable season! We'd also like to thank you, the fans, for all your support during the season! Until next time, enjoy the offseason and as always, GO SAINTS!
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