At Deering High, Danielle Cusack was a team sport kind of girl: field hockey, ice hockey, lacrosse. Every year.

This season Cusack is taking her first crack at a solo sport.

She is running cross country for St. Joseph’s College, where she will be the team’s No. 1 runner heading into the Great Northeast Athletic Conference championship meet Saturday in Standish.

“For someone who hasn’t really run before she doesn’t have any weaknesses,” said Coach Bruce Bickford, the former Olympian from Lawrence, who took over the program this fall. “It’s amazing. You don’t see that.”

Cusack went to Northeastern as a freshman last fall but decided the school wasn’t for her and transferred to St. Joseph’s.

She had run road races with her sister, mostly at 5 kilometers, and figured, what could be so hard?

“I enjoy running on my own and was interested in the sport,” said Cusack. “I’ve really learned a lot about running. I used to run to stay in shape. I didn’t know what I was doing.”

On Saturday she is shooting to beat her time of 21 minutes, 32 seconds — the last time she ran on her home course, a day she wasn’t feeling great.

“She’s really solidified the women’s team, really brought this team together,” said Bickford. “And she’s learned discipline in her running. She can go out and stay within herself. You can tell she knows more about racing each week.”

Cusack said she’s learned a few lessons the hard way, going out too hard, for example.

“If you’re running in a big group you have to know how to run your own race,” she said. “You can’t push so hard you don’t finish the race. A couple races I went out too hard and struggled to finish.”

Now, she’s figured out a thing or two and has high hopes leading the team into Saturday’s meet.

“She’s got great heart. She just doesn’t give up and you can’t teach that,” said Bickford. “It’s either there or it isn’t.”

ST. JOSEPH’S

The field hockey team has earned the top seed and a first-round bye in the North Atlantic Conference tournament. The Monks (12-4, 7-0 NAC) have won 18 consecutive regular-season games dating back to 2008.

The men’s basketball team was presented with the 2009-10 Collegiate Basketball Officials Association Schoenfeld Award for the New England East Region last week. The award represents sportsmanship, character and ethics among players, coaches and spectators.

It’s named after Sam Schoenfeld, a former college basketball player who died in 1956. The award is the highest honor given by the CBOA.

UNIVERSITY OF NEW ENGLAND

The field hockey team earned the third seed in The Commonwealth Coast Conference championships and will host Gordon in the first round on Saturday. UNE is 9-6 overall, 6-2 in league play.

The women’s soccer team (11-5, 8-4 TCCC) earned a spot in the conference tournament, which begins Saturday. The team’s opponent and game time are likely to be determined after today’s conference games.

Volleyball player Maria Kuehl was named conference rookie of the week after leading the Nor’easters to a 3-0 record by averaging 7.5 assists and 2.9 digs per set last week. She is a first-year setter.

BOWDOIN

The undefeated field hockey team (13-0) will play today at Tufts to determine the regular-season NESCAC champion. The winner will be the top seed and enjoy home field throughout the tournament, which begins on Sunday.

Kristin Hanczor was named NESCAC co-player of the week for volleyball. A middle blocker, Hanczor led the Polar Bears to a second-place finish at the Hall of Fame tournament last weekend, the school’s best finish at the event.

She had 13 digs in wins over No. 1 Amherst and No. 2 Springfield. The Polar Bears (16-9, 7-3 NESCAC) open the playoffs on Nov. 5.

The men’s soccer team (10-1-2, 5-1-2 NESCAC) closes the regular season today at Tufts and will play a conference tournament quarterfinal Sunday.

The women’s soccer team (6-5-2, 3-4-1 NESCAC) secured a spot in the tournament with a 3-0 win over Trinity last Saturday. The Polar Bears open with a quarterfinal Sunday.

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN MAINE

Several teams at USM will be fighting to make the playoffs this week, including field hockey and men’s and women’s soccer.

The cross country teams will be running Saturday in the Little East Conference and New England Alliance Championship at 11 a.m. in Worcester, Mass.

UNIVERSITY OF MAINE

The women’s soccer team, seeded sixth in the conference, defeated No. 3 Hartford 1-0 Thursday in the America East tournament quarterfinals and advanced to face No. 2 Stony Brook in the semifinals on Sunday.

Maine is led by senior captain Kelsey Wilson of Gorham, who has seven goals and two assists.

Field hockey midfielder Stephanie Gardiner was named America East co-player of the week after scoring five goals as the Black Bears won twice to lock up a spot in the America East tournament.

The Black Bears close the regular season with a 5 p.m. game Saturday at Boston University. The winner earns the No. 3 seed in the playoffs.

 

Staff Writer Jenn Menendez can be contacted at 791-6426 or at:

[email protected]