Gia Cillizza, field hockey coach, and players, Katie Bertrand, Colleen Harwood ,and Shannon O’Hearn were quoted in an Oct. 12 Gazette (Gaithersburg, Md.) article about field hockey players who attended high school in Montgomery County, Md., and now play at CUA. See the article below.
Catholic University Field Hockey Targets Montgomery County Players
Date: Oct. 12, 2011
Author: James Peters
Five Montgomery graduates help Cardinals get out to fast start
When Gia Cillizza grabbed the reins of the Catholic University field hockey program a decade ago, she quickly took stock of her roster and what she learned was the Cardinals were doing very well luring players from other states but not so much when it came to locally grown talent.
“Montgomery County has great hockey and when I became a full-time head coach here I figured we better not cede our backyard to everyone else,” Cillizza said. “We have a bunch of great players from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts and other places, but we didn't have many local players on the roster.
“I knew other programs were doing well with local players and I wasn't going to give up without a fight.”
To that end, Cillizza instituted a summer camp at the school and helped make Catholic a U.S. Field Hockey Futures site, affording her more opportunities to access the local talent and apparently the Cardinals coach liked what she saw.
This fall Catholic employs a quintet of former county players, including Col. Zadok Magruder graduate Colleen Harwood, the 2010 Gazette Player of the Year, and they’ve helped the Cardinals roll out to a 9-1 overall mark and a 3-0 record in Landmark Conference play through Sunday.
Harwood is one of three freshmen from the county on the squad and one of 14 freshmen overall on the team. Cillizza has quickly reloaded with the departure of 10 seniors from a team that compiled a program-best 17-4 record that included an Eastern College Athletic Conference crown.
Springbrook graduate Shannon O’Hearn and Clarksburg graduate Katie Bertrand, a pair of All-Gazette first team selections last fall, are the other two newcomers. They join veterans Mary Swarthout, an Our Lady of Good Counsel graduate, and Catherine Mirsky, who played her high school field hockey at Bethesda-Chevy Chase for longtime coach Amy Wood.
“This year's team can be as good as it wants to be,” Cillizza said. “Coming off our best finish in program history and graduating 10, people thought I was crazy to say we could do great things this year, especially with 14 freshmen.
“But we had recruited some of these players for years and I knew the personnel we were bringing in would fit very nicely with our returners. As a whole, they are young but they are low maintenance and very supportive of each other.”
And so far they’ve been very productive, including Harwood, who has punched in nine goals, including four in last week’s 10-0 blasting of Goucher. She produced 10 goals and 15 assists a year ago, leading the Colonels to the 4A state semifinals.
“For me, this season has been amazing; I love all the girls on the team, the coaches, and Catholic University in general,” Harwood said. “This season had a lot to live up to after my last year with Magruder, we had such a close-knit senior class of 13 girls, and playing for Kathy with all my best friends for four years was more than I could ask for. I am really lucky to now be a part of another great team where I already as a freshman I feel like a part of the CUA field hockey family.
“I think our team this year is really special. We have four amazing senior captains who are great leaders, and we all want to win the Landmark Championship especially for them.”
Bertrand, like Harwood, has already earned a starting spot as a midfielder-forward and has produced four goals and two assists; she scored nine goals and assisted on nine others as a senior at Clarksburg last fall.
“My first season here at CUA is going absolutely amazing,” Bertrand said. “I am learning so much more about field hockey and improving my game. The team is awesome. Even with 14 freshmen everyone is connecting and playing so well together.
“It is so much fun being able to play with other girls from my county. They are all awesome players so it is cool to be teammates now.”
O’Hearn began practicing with the squad last week after being sidelined by “a strange illness” and a recent surgical procedure. The dynamic playmaker had 14 assists for the Blue Devils in 2010.
“My personal goals are to get back in shape, and be able to play a couple games before the season ends in about four weeks,” she said. “I think that the team this year is really good, we have a really strong freshman class. I think that the team can go really far in the playoffs.
“I was on the same travel team as Katie Bertrand, Jackals. And Colleen Harwood played at Magruder and was a big rival for Springbrook field hockey. I don't find it weird or anything; I enjoy playing with them because they are great players and really great people as well.”
Those inspiring senior captains Harwood spoke of include Swarthout, who posted both goals in Catholic’s 2-1 win against Drew in the ECAC championship game a year ago. This season, she has contributed six goals and five assists.
Mirsky, a junior, anchors a defense that had allowed seven goals through Sunday on 80 shots with five shutouts.
“Mary is the catalyst to our attack,” Cillizza said. “As a senior captain, she has just gotten better every year. She possesses fabulous speed and has developed her elimination skills to beat top defenders. She is relentless the whole time she's on the field. She's an awesome role model for the younger players.
“Catherine is a talented, solid defender. She has excellent timing and has developed her leadership skills to be more authoritative on the field. She's good in transition and has an excellent stroke.”