The Fairfield University women’s basketball team squeaked out another close win on Tuesday night, this time defeating the Vermont Catamounts 51-47 at Alumni Hall.
The teams traded points for much of the first half, with Fairfield taking a 15-13 lead on a three-pointer by Kristin Schatzlein ’16 with just under nine minutes to play. Vermont would come back to tie it on two different occasions before halftime, but Fairfield never relinquished the lead and had the 24-23 advantage going into halftime.
Coming out of the break, Fairfield’s defense held Vermont scoreless for over four minutes, and was able to build a 31-23 lead. The Stags had their biggest lead of the day at 10 with seven minutes remaining when Katelyn Linney ‘13 connected on her second three pointer of the game. Linney scored eight points for the game, all coming in the second half.
Vermont battled back to make it a two-point game, and with just 20 seconds remaining, Catamounts forward Kaylea Britton attempted a three pointer to give Vermont the lead, but missed, with Alexys Vazquez corralling the rebound.
Linney sank two clutch free throws to ice the game for the Stags and ensure the four point victory. The win avenges a 65-48 loss to Vermont suffered last year by the Stags up in Burlington.
The leading scorer for the Stags on Tuesday night was Katie Cizynski ’14, who had a career high 19 points to go along with six rebounds. Freshman Schatzlein added a career-high nine points in 14 minutes off the bench for the Stags.
“I thought it was kind of messy, but a win is a win,” said Cizynski. “We didn’t play well against them last year, so this is good redemption.”
“We struggled guarding them inside [at the end of the game], but I thought Felicia handled the ball really well bringing it up. She didn’t turn it over, and she just kept going,” said Cizynski.
Head Coach Joe Frager called the win a “complete 180” from last year. “[Vermont] is incredibly big and physical, their kids are so much thicker and stronger across the board, and we did a better job of handling that tonight,” said Frager.
“In the first half, the really beat us up on the boards, and in the second half, for about a five minute stretch, their physical play really got us ragged with the basketball. But outside of that, I consider this a real solid win.”
The tight victory on Tuesday follows another close win at home against St. Bonaventure’s on Nov. 20 at Alumni Hall as well. Cizynski had her second double-double of the season, finishing with 16 points and 10 boards. Junior Alexys Vazquez went five for eight shooting, scoring 13 points, while Brittany Obi-Tabot ’14 and Brittany MacFarlane ’13 scored eight apiece as well in the victory.
“We’re feeling good, and it’s also good that we’re being put in these situations early in the season, so we can get comfortable with it,” said Cizynski.
“They’re embracing the fact they know they have to play as a team,” said Frager. “We made a few young mistakes down the stretch, and one defensive mistake that almost cost us, and fortunately it didn’t.”
The win over the Bonnies was an impressive one for Fairfield, given that St. Bonaventure was considered among the best non-power conference teams in the country last year, and made it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
“I’m real thrilled,” Frager continued, “because I don’t think a lot of people thought this group would be 4-1, with a win on the road at Butler and over St. Bonaventure.”
Since allowing 71 points to Florida in their first game of the season, the Stags defense has played quite well, not allowing an opponent to score into the 50s since that game. On Tuesday, the defense held strong again, forcing the Catamounts to shoot just 36 percent for the game, and go 0 for 9 from three-point range.
The Stags look to pick up their fifth win of the season this Saturday when they take on St. Francis Brooklyn at 2 p.m. at Alumni Hall.