Peter Caty/The Mirror

Over the past couple of years, two different forwards have been the primary forces to lead their Fairfield University women’s basketball teams to successful seasons.  During the current 2010-2011 campaign, Taryn Johnson is well on her way to carrying her squad to a third.

“She’s been fantastic,” Head Coach Joe Frager said.  “I really think she’s maturing and coming into her own as a player.”

The junior has reached double figures in eleven straight games including narrowly missing a career high with 21 points against St. Peters.  Her recent hot streak has helped the club to win seven of their last eight conference contests and earn a 10-4 record in the MAAC.

“I just try and do what I can,” Johnson said.“[I] try and contribute inside my role and do what I can to help my team win.”

Over the past three weeks she is averaging 17 PPG, good enough to earn two MAAC Player of the Week Honors.  Coach Frager has seen the progression of her game since her freshmen season, noting that “in the past we would see this out of her every once in a while, but she’s really stringing it together and playing some very good basketball for us.”

However, she takes none of the credit.  Even though Johnson might be piloting the Stags in the last few games, this team still believes that they need to connect together and all contribute if they want to reach their potential heights.   Their recent results are showing that growth.

“We’re …comfortable more so now than in the beginning of the season because we’re young,” Johnson said.

A difficult final stretch will test this young team.  As the season nears the end it becomes time for all the lessons of the year to pay off if the Stags want to cash in on their development.  They can look at the positives of this winning streak to build on heading into the vital final four games on the schedule.  Over the weekend, the Stags improved their game in the second half by shooting 52 percent in their two wins, a practice that can help them over these next games.

“I think that’s a credit to the girls,” Frager said.  “When you talk to them at halftime, they’re coachable and they listen and they try to the best of their ability to do what the coaching staff asks them to do.”

These last four games are against the only MAAC teams to have defeated the Stags this season: Loyola, Siena, Manhattan, and Marist.  With their current record of 10-4, they sit in fourth place in the conference, and will play against the top three teams ahead of them in the standings.  The Stags enter this crucial period with something to prove.  “We feel as though we could play better and we want to try and play up to our standards,” Frager said.

They are at the position where they wish to be with the season nearly ending.  They are playing arguably their best basketball as they approach these tough games and the players are happy about their recent play.

“That’s what you want,” Johnson said.  “By the end of the season you would hope to improve and that’s what we’ve been doing.  We’ve been progressing and going into these games with confidence.”

Senior starting forward Joelle Nawrocki also believes that these last few games are to prove to people that they are for real.

“We didn’t play our best games against those three,” she said.

This squad has finished its contests against the weaker teams in the league, and is left with the upper portion of the MAAC.  The Stags have not defeated a team this year that had a better record than them going into the game.  If they want to reach the goals of the season, obviously that needs to change – but this team is ready.

Nawrocki said, “We want to come together and show them how good we really are, and play Fairfield basketball against them.”

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