By Al Mattei

Founder, TopOfTheCircle.com

Gia Fenoglio and Lisa Thompson were not only teammates at Division I Miami of Ohio in the late 1990s, but they joined the Catholic University coaching staff in 1999: Thompson as head coach, Fenoglio as a trusted assistant.

But when Thompson got the call from Division I Davidson to coach there, who better than Fenoglio to take over?

After all, she went to one of the best Catholic field hockey programs in the United States, St. Louis Visitation (Mo.). She also was responsible for scouring Roman Catholic schools for talent in the Northeast United States, especially the talent-rich Philadelphia Catholic League.

But she is about to have a crash course not only in coaching, but scouting. She will not only have most of the nation to cover, but she will have the to match Thompson's ability to get players to come to the District of Columbia.

"The great thing about Catholic the past couple of years is that if you are able to get the players to visit the campus," Fenoglio said, "they'll want to stay."

Catholic University is located in the Brookland neighborhood of the District of Columbia, a few miles due north of the U.S. Capitol and the National Mall, and play their games on an elevated grass pitch at the extreme north end of campus that offers a panoramic view of Northeast D.C.

It was from this very perch that Catholic launched an assault on Division III field hockey the last couple of years, getting the honor of hosting the ECAC Mid-Atlantic field hockey tournament -- in essence, being labeled as one of the best teams not to make it into the 2001 NCAA Tournament.

The Cardinals want more in 2002; an NCAA tournament berth is the Cardinals' goal for the season.

Fenoglio knows that winning the Capital Athletic Conference is still a matter of beating perennial powerhouses Salisbury and Mary Washington.

"The whole 2001 season, we just had such an incredible feeling of togetherness and confidence," she says. "I hope that we can keep it going this year; we have a number of the same players back for us."

The Cardinals graduate five players from last year's ECAC Mid-Atlantic finalists, and expect to fill the holes with other team members as well as top recruits, including freshman Jamie Punyko, who has scored one of the fastest overtime goals ever recorded in the history of the National Federation.

Catholic will be tremendous on defense, thanks to senior goalkeeper Katie Iannacone and fullback Sondra Pires.