(Photo Courtesy of Holy Cross Athletics)
If there ever was such thing as a year zero for a head coach, J.L. Reppert lived it at Holy Cross last season.
Reppert was hired 36 days before the start of the Crusaders’ season-opener being announced as the next head coach at Holy Cross on January 22nd with the Crusaders’ first contest of the season taking place on February 27th. On top of that, the Patriot League opted for a modified conference schedule where they split the conference into divisions and each team played a six-game conference schedule. Additionally, Holy Cross didn’t even complete their entire schedule as the university cancelled their season with two games left due to a “violation of team standards and of the College’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols.”
It simply was not a normal first season on the job for Reppert and far from a normal season, in general, for the Crusaders. But despite those factors, as well as a 2-4 (1-3 Patriot League) record, there were some positive aspects to take away from this team last season that suggest things could be improved as soon as 2022 in Worcester.
The Crusaders’ first win of the Reppert era came in their season-opener, 11-10, against Sacred Heart. Their second win of the year came in their final game of the season as they beat Lafayette, 10-7.
Additionally, the Crusaders came within a goal of three wins as they fell to Colgate, 12-11, in overtime during their second game of the year. Additionally, they had the second-best caused turnover team in the Patriot League (9.80 per game), as well as the least penalized team in the conference, averaging two per game. Holy Cross’ keepers also averaged the most saves per game (16.20) in the conference. And much of the talent that help put up those numbers return this spring.
Goalie A.J. Fox is arguably the Crusaders’ most impactful returnee. The senior goalkeeper is coming off a strong campaign last spring in which he started all six games and made 85 saves with a .541% save percentage. That included a 17-save game against Sacred Heart to start the season and a career-high 18-save performance against Syracuse in late March.
Fox looks to anchor a defense that has a good amount of potential with three of their primary starting poles returning from a year ago in senior Chris Conlin, junior Hayes Reding, and sophomore Peter Roegge. Conlin is the most experienced player on this defense, having been a full-starter since his freshman campaign in 2019, and is coming off a campaign last spring in which he recorded a team-high 19 caused turnovers and 20 ground balls. Reding had 10 ground balls and three caused turnovers last spring while Roegge recorded seven ground balls and five caused turnovers.
In addition to that core at close, Holy Cross will also see SSDM Kilian Morrissey return for his junior season to lead that Crusaders rope unit.
After an odd, six-game 2021 season, this defense under the guidance of defensive coordinator Shane Lynch, who has been retained by Reppert, could see some real progress and begin taking steps back towards the success they saw during the 2019 and 2020 seasons in which Holy Cross housed one of the better units in the Patriot League.
Similar statements could be said about this Crusaders’ offense, which struggled mightily last season as they averaged 7.83 goals per game and sees a new face take over on that end this season in Chris Herren, who comes to Holy Cross after serving as volunteer assistant at Michigan. The Crusaders also only average 32 shots per game opposed to their opponents’ 43 last season.
The Crusaders return each of their top five point-getters from a year ago in junior attackman Dean DiNanno (8G/6A) and Jayce Lambert (9G/2A), who has also seen time at midfield, as well as senior attackman Will Spangenberg (5G/7A), and junior midfielders T.J. Lynch (6G/2A) and Cameron Magalotti (6G/1A).
DiNanno and Spangenberg led the way as the team’s top two scorers last season and are the only two returnees on the offensive end that started all six games last season. The attack duo has played alongside each other the past 13 games going back to the beginning of the 2020 season and looks to be the leaders of this offense again this spring.
Another area in which the Crusaders will certainly want to see progress at this spring is at the faceoff dot. Last season, Brenda McKenzie and Connor DePiero split time at the position, going a combined 54-for-124 (44%). Getting that number to, at least, 50% should not only help this offense get more opportunities but also help give the Crusaders’ defense some room to breathe in between possessions, and in general, see the productivity of this team as a whole go up.