ALBANY, NY. — Remember when the Fairfield women were 10-12 overall and 4-7 in the MAAC? That was as recently as a month ago, after the Stags fell 55-41 to St. Peter’s, their seventh loss in nine games. To say Fairfield has since turned it around would be the understatement of the season. After defeating Iona 61-57 earlier this morning in the semifinals of the MAAC Tournament, the Stags are riding a nine-game winning streak into the championship game against No. 1 seed Marist. How did this happen?
From Iona head coach Anthony Bozzella’s perspective, it’s all about confidence. After the Stags eliminated the Gaels from the Tournament, Bozzella spoke about this being a different Fairfield squad, one that is playing with a ton of confidence. Fairfield, the three seed, eliminated the second-seeded Gaels with the help of 16 points from Stephanie Geehan. It’s hard to believe this team was tied eighth place in the conference with only seven games left.
If Fairfield is going to win its 10th straight, it’s going to have to beat the four-time defending champions in the Marist Red Foxes. Led by three-time MAAC Player of the Year Rachele Fitz, Marist defeated Niagara 69-47. Fitz had 17 of Marist’s 30 points in the first half and finished with 25 points and 12 rebounds despite being under the weather.
The last time these two teams met, Fairfield was coming off the aforementioned loss to St. Pete’s. The 61-60 upset of the Red Foxes energized the Stags, which haven’t lost since that matchup on Feb. 9. Marist won the first contest at home by seven.
“I think the biggest thing for them was getting Tara Flaherty back,” Marist head coach Brian Giorgis. I think that really, really changed their team. And (Fairfield head coach) Joe Frager does a great job. He didn’t win a national championship in Division II for nothing. He’s a very smart coach. He’s not very deep, but what he has is very good. We know we’ll have our hands full.”
Having been in the title game the past six years, Marist certainly comes in with the target on its back. “You always would rather be the hunted than to be the hunter,” Giorgis said. “The important thing that we’ve been trying to do is get these guys to play like the hunter.” Given Fairfield’s winning streak, that might not be such a tough sell.