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Red, purple & blue team up for the Cardinals at Catholic

January 11, 2013

Girls College Basketball Notebook

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Catholic University girls basketball team is currently in the midst of what is shaping up to be a special season for the program.

Kristen Kitrick [from left], a Wall graduate and student assistant at Catholic University, and Brigid Gannon, a Manasquan graduate, and Mary Hagaman, a St Rose graduate, both players, have all played key roles in the success of the Cardinals’ basketball program. Photo courtesy ROBIN GANNON

Kristen Kitrick [from left], a Wall graduate and student assistant at Catholic University, and Brigid Gannon, a Manasquan graduate, and Mary Hagaman, a St Rose graduate, both players, have all played key roles in the success of the Cardinals’ basketball program. Photo courtesy ROBIN GANNON

And, the Cardinals are doing it with a local Coast Star feel.

Catholic University, currently ranked 13th in the nation according to a recent USA Today DIII poll, has two players from the local area on its roster in senior Mary Hagaman, a Belmar resident who played for St. Rose, and sophomore Brigid Gannon, a former Manasquan High School hooper from Spring Lake Heights.

Along with Hagaman’s purple and gold roots and Gannon’s blue and gray ones, the Cardinals also have Wall High School’s crimson red mixed into their success, with Kristen Kitrick, a former player for both the Crimson Knights and Catholic University, currently involved with the program as a student assistant.

Hagaman, Kitrick and Gannon have all played an instrumental role in turning Catholic University into one of the elite Division III teams in the country under head coach Matt Donohue.

Kitrick, who played for Donohue her first two years before deciding to end her playing career to study abroad in Rome, Italy, last year, has enjoyed seeing the progress of the Cardinals program during her tenure at Catholic University. Kitrick said despite missing her time on the court for the Cardinals, she has really taken to her role as a student assistant, which includes heavy involvement at practice, working out injured players and taking statistical information during games.

“From my freshman year to now, there has been such a big turnaround,” said Kitrick, who also interns with the National Basketball Association’s Washington Wizards. “Everyone has bought into the program and it is really nice to see. It says a lot about our team and coach [Donohue].”

It all started last year for the Cardinals, when the team had its best season in school history. In 2011-2012, Catholic University earned 22 wins, while also capturing both its first Landmark Conference championship and NCAA Division III Tournament berth.

This season, the Cardinals seem to be even stronger, with the group sitting at 13-0 as of Monday [Catholic University took on Juniata College out of Huntingdon, Pa., yesterday, in a late game].

According to Hagaman, Catholic University is winning due to strong team chemistry, whether a basketball is present or not.

“The team camaraderie we have, both on and off the court, has definitely played a huge role in our success,” Hagaman said.

That chemistry and bonding on a large scale within the Catholic University locker room trickles down even deeper when it comes to the three locals, according to Gannon.

Whether it is around the court or on a car ride back home to the Jersey Shore, Gannon said she, Hagaman and Kitrick are always growing closer by sharing good times together.

“I love Mary and Kit [Kristen] — they are hilarious,” Gannon said with a laugh. “We travel back and forth a lot from school together, so we are always bonding during our car rides.”

Though the Cardinals are enjoying their recent success, the team is still determined and focused on reaching new heights this winter.

Last season, the Cardinals were a quick out in the NCAA Tournament, falling to Muhlenberg College out of Allentown, Pa., in the first round.

Hopefully that will not happen not this season, Hagaman said.

“What I have experienced at Catholic University is everything I wanted [to get out of college] and more,” said the senior. “But, our goal is to win the conference again and make it further in the NCAA Tournament this year.”

Whatever comes of the Cardinals’ season in 2012-2013 that is yet to be determined, Gannon knows it is up to her and the rest of the underclassmen to carry on the winning tradition set in place by the program’s veterans, which include Hagaman and Kitrick.

“We want to carry the team forward in the coming years,” Gannon said. “We want to keep building off the success.”

Follow me on twitter: @samcostantino

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