After losing three straight games only a few weeks ago, the Fairfield University women’s basketball team has come together and won their fourth straight conference contest on Sunday against the Rider Broncs.
“14-6 and 7-3. We’re back where we want to be,” Coach Joe Frager said.
The prevalent theme for the 2010-2011 basketball season is to go some place where the women’s basketball team has never been before. And as of Monday, they are on their way to reaching that plateau as they find themselves on top of the national standings for scoring defense.
“We’ve worked hard on our defense and we take pride in that, so it’s great to be first and it’s a real big accomplishment for us,” the team’s leading scorer Katelyn Linney ‘13 said.
While the fact that the team is statistically the best defensively out of any other school playing at the D1 level gives off a sense of accomplishment, if a program intends to win a championship they must rely on more than just one aspect.
The current conference winning streak has shown that this squad can be more than a one dimensional team. While the saving force of the year has been the best defense in the nation to pick up the struggling offense, the Stags are starting to shoot the ball at a higher rate.
“We’re a little more relaxed now and it’s getting on a roll now,” Linney said. During their last four contests Fairfield averaged nearly 60 points per game, 3 tallies higher than their season average, and shot 46 percent from the floor during their last two victories.
According to Frager, the reason for the sudden spike in percentage can be credited to a new emphasis for balance on the offensive side.
“We’ve made a conscious effort to try and get more things going towards the rim and some more post ups,” he said, “as opposed to living and dying on the perimeter which at times we’ve done this year.”
The new found offensive spark and the always constant defensive display cannot be credited to just one player. With the Fairfield Stags, success does not depend on one particular athlete carrying the team on their back like in past years. Instead of playing as many individuals, they need to perform as a smoothly run single unit.
“We always talk about trying to play Fairfield basketball- that means good ball security, good half court defense, and really playing together as a unit,” Frager said.
Midway through the MAAC season, Fairfield has had contributions from people who entered the year under the radar. Sophomore Brittany MacFarlane leads the conference in rebounds in MAAC only games while senior Joelle Nawrocki remains in the top 5 in assists against conference foes.
Even though Linney is the team’s leading scorer, the guard also knows how important it is for the squad to play as a whole.
“We need every single person here and when we communicate out on the court, we’re all together and that’s when we have the most success,” she said.
Although the talent level might not rank as high as other teams in the MAAC, the Stags hope that playing as a group can knock off the other squads with better raw individual talent.
“We’re not the greatest team in the world laterally. We’re not going to beat a lot of guys one-on-one both offensively and defensively,” Coach Frager said. “They need each other and the more they believe that the better they will become.”
After all, the squad thus far stands on top of the nation in scoring defense without the nationally recognized names of Maya Moore, Brittney Griner, or being led by Geno Auriemma. Instead, they remain successful as a single machine made out of parts such as Katelyn Linney, Desiree Pina, and Joe Frager as the manufacturer of it all.
“It shows when a group of kids who pay attention and really try to do what we want as a coaching staff, they can accomplish good things,” Frager said.
After the win on Sunday, Fairfield is tied for third place in the MAAC with four games against the top three combined still left to be played. But going forward, playing together can help this group and lead them to realize all the promise that the squad has.
As Coach Frager said, “Our destiny is in our hands.”