Four freshmen. Three sophomores. Three juniors. Two seniors. The Fairfield women’s basketball team may be young, but they are more confident than ever.
Although the women’s basketball team has graduated their two star players, Tara Flaherty ‘10 and Stephanie Geehan ’10, there is still plenty of reason to “Fear the Deer.”
The three veteran captains Sarah Paulus ’12, Desiree Pina ’12 and Kelly Romano ’11 had nothing but optimistic feedback to give about their team.
Paulus is very excited for the season because she is returning for her third year, but with three seasons of athletic eligibility remaining after a devastating ACL injury.
Paulus has played 34 games as a Stag, with four starts. She enters the campaign with 46 points, 38 rebounds and 27 assists.
Pina is the Stags top returning scorer and she is one of the most enthusiastic players on the team. She enters her junior year with 683 career points, a 10.5 per game average over her 65 appearances, 64 of which have been at the start of the game.
Her 271 points as a rookie were the seventh most of any Stags player during a freshman season at the Division I level.
Romano who represents one out of the two seniors on the women’s team has two years of eligibility remaining after missing the 2008-09 season following surgery on both of her hips. Romano has appeared in 19 games during her Fairfield career.
When the three captains were asked about what they thought of their #4 preseason ranking they laughed it off with confidence. Pina said, “We believe that it really doesn’t matter or mean a whole lot at all, we are all about proving those polls wrong, it’s great motivation for us.”
Paulus added to Romano’s comment, “Last year we were ranked sixth, and then we were in the finals, if that’s not proof, I don’t know what is. This shows that absolutely anything can happen in our conference.”
Although it’s obvious that it will be hard without their two star players from last year, they are confident with what the four freshmen have to bring to the court.
Romano, Paulus and Pina agree that Christelle Akon-Akech ‘14 from Lyon, France is very versatile and has the ability to play multiple positions on the court.
Overall, she is simply very good with the ball. Akon-Akech’s 6’9” uncle, Luol Deng, currently plays for the Chicago Bulls of the NBA.
It is apparent that the promising freshman has big shoes to fill. Katie Cizynski ’14 is another freshman with big shoes to fill since her father is the only baseball player in Fairfield history to throw a nine-inning no-hitter.
The Connecticut native is said by the captains to be a very strong player that can shoot on the outside, which is key. Paulus said that Alexys Vazquez ‘14 is very good three point shooter. The young freshman from Berlin, CT said, “I can’t wait for our season to start and I can’t wait to experience college basketball at the Division I level for the very first time , playing together as a team should bring us a very successful year. “
The captains believe that all of the preparation and conditioning that they went through with Strength and Conditioning Coach Mark Spellman provided them with what it will take to have an incredible season. It is simply what it will take if they want vengeance on teams such as Manhattan, who beat them last year, as well as their ongoing rivalry with Marist College.
The captains claim that they were able to move from the bottom to the top of the MAAC last season because they were able “establish their identity,” which is a common theme in Coach Frager’s advice to his young team.
The final and most crucial element to the overall success of the team is in the hands of the Fairfield Stags and their ability to create school spirit. Paulus said, “Fairfield lacks school spirit, yet they have so much Red Sox, Mets and Yankees spirit, so if they could bring that energy to the basketball games it would be incredible.”