Aisha Faulkner/The Mirror

The air is starting to get crisp, and the days are getting shorter. It’s time for some college basketball.

With college basketball comes great excitement, and for the Fairfield University Men’s and Women’s basketball teams, great expectations.

Those expectations were showcased Friday night at the second annual “Red Sea Madness.” The Men’s and Women’s team gave a packed house of students a little preview of what to expect from their respective squads during the upcoming season.

“You could pretty much taste the energy and excitement in Alumni Hall,” said Pat Shanley, a senior and four-year member of the pep band.  “People were making noise and having fun. I personally yelled my voice hoarse, and still don’t have it back.”

Alumni Hall turned into a madhouse fueled by school spirit. Just about every organization promoting the Stags was there. WVOF had in-depth radio coverage, the cheerleaders and dance team were patrolling the end line, throwing out free T-shirts during  breaks in action. The band was out in full force, echoing the gymnasium with tunes igniting the crowd, and Stags in the Stands, who played a major part in orchestrating “Red Sea Madness”, kept the crowd rowdy.

The “Madness” started off with an emphatic introduction of the Men’s and Women’s teams, performed by Ivey Speight, who served as the MC of the event.

The first event was the three point contest in which four members of the Women’s basketball team battled it out in front of the “students only” crowd. Junior Katelyn Linney edged out Alexis Vasquez, Britanny McFarlene, and Laura Vetra to earn the title. It would be fair to say that Linney was the favorite going into the contest, she is currently tied for fourth all time in career three point shots, with a remarkable 143 threes.

“ I was expecting her to win.” said an energetic Shanley. “She hits threes, and a lot of them!”

After the three point-shootout, senior Desiree Pina of the woman’s team, and junior Derek Needham of the men’s team, defeated two lucky students from the crowd in the hot-shot competition, a friendly reminder of why we are in the stands and they are on the court!

After an hour and a half of anticipation, the antsy students finally got what they wanted. The dunk contest! Although the highly touted transfer, Rakim Sanders, did not participate in the contest, the Stags sill transformed Alumni hall into a frantic state with a remarkable display of athleticism. Junior Colin Nickerson put on a show, winning the contest by throwing down an emphatic tomahawk slam. Nickerson just missed on a “between the legs” slam from the MAAC symbol inside the foul line, nearly stunning a crowd filled with wowed students. Jamel Fields did his best Superman impression, slamming a dunk down with a “cape” (a chef’s apron), while sophomore forward Keith Matthews had a nice dunk of his own.

“The Slam dunk competition was my favorite part of the night. It was great to see the athletic ability of our players,” said junior Jenna Canfora.

It was a great night for the student body to get a preview of what to expect out of the Stags this season. The men are coming off of a school record 25 wins, and only lose one starter while adding Boston College transfer Rakim Sanders, and Houston transfer Desmond Wade. The women on the other hand, return 91 percent of their scoring, while only losing Joelle Nawrocki and Kelly Romano to graduation.

Sometimes it can be hard to remember that these remarkable athletes are indeed students, with school and social lives just like the rest of us. Red Sea Madness gives the fans a rare moment to see the players as individuals, rather than just athletes.

“It was cool to see the players having fun as a team, acting more like themselves rather than just in a game setting.” said sophomore Allison Sheridan.

“It really adds to the basketball season, said Shanley. “Everyone knows that it’s basketball season and they now know the players without even going to a game.”

The home opener for the men is on November 14th  against the Ed Cooley coached Providence Friars. Yes, that Ed Cooley, who in March,  left the Stags sidelines to coach his hometown Friars.  The women open up at home on November 11th against Stony Brook, and there is no reason the Red Sea should not be out in full force for these games and the rest of the season.

“I see the post season being very possible for each team.  We need some fans out there to cheer them into the NCAA Tournament!” said Shanley.

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