Meagan Morelli ‘21 is a guard on the Fairfield University women’s basketball team, and is currently looking forward to her last season as a Stag. After the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament ended so abruptly due to COVID-19 on March 12 of this year, and the Stags had made it to the semi-finals, Morelli is eager to get her next shot at the championship. Despite her final season looking much different than what she imagined, she remains full of optimism and a love for her team.
Q: How are you feeling about this upcoming season being your senior season as a Stag?
A: I think that it’s mixed emotions because it’s our senior year and everything is different. We are crossing our fingers that the season actually happens and [are] hoping for the best. We are practicing for the best possible scenario, but we have to take it day by day. We currently have no COVID-19 cases and have no one under surveillance, so we know we are taking it very seriously, especially after how the season ended last year.
Q: What have you found to be the biggest change so far with all of the new COVID-19 regulations?
A: I think the biggest change for us is that we don’t get that team bonding that we have had in previous years. We can’t get together constantly like in the past. We are really working, especially the upperclassmen, to take the first-years under our wing in different ways. That has to be the most challenging, having to work harder to have that team chemistry that we had seven months ago. The most team building we really have is during conditioning, which is so different from every other year where that happens when we compete against each other during practice. We can’t gather together or go out to dinner, so communication has become really important. Our four new first-years have adjusted really well despite all of this though!
Q: Has this year differed from others in terms of your off-season practice routine? If so, how?
A: So usually during the off-season we have conditioning, and then small group training which is more of a practice. This year, another girl on the team, who is also my roommate, and I weren’t allowed to pass the ball to each other in practice. Our whole first practice was us throwing the ball out to ourselves and running into our shots by catching our own passes. So, that was so weird! But it has gotten a lot better. We did have to stop practice after there was a COVID-19 scare in the Athletics Department last week, but we came back and were able to have a team practice on Tuesday, which was amazing! We weren’t allowed to have any contact, which was very different. We have mostly been working on transition drills and plays. We were joking about the fact that we haven’t had any defense at practice. We literally have not played defense for seven months, which is definitely the biggest difference.
Q: How do you feel about the conference schedule that was just announced? Do you think the later start date will affect the team positively or negatively?
A: We didn’t get to get our summer session this year, which usually puts us ahead of schedule. So, having the conference schedule pushed back is, from my perspective, a good thing because we have gotten pushed back in a ton of other ways, like how we are able to practice. So this will give us and our coaches more time to come up with a game plan on how we are going to approach the season. To be honest, we are in it for the championship and everyone has that mindset because of how close we got last year. We definitely have some unfinished business, especially our returning players. We had some of our best games going into the tournament last year, and then all of a sudden it was over before the semifinals. It’s our biggest motivation to stay healthy and follow the rules.
Q: Now that you have seen the conference schedule, do you have a team that you are really excited to play against?
A: I personally love playing against Marist [College] because they have a very similar fire to us. There are some teams who are scrappy, or teams with great defense or with great shooters. But Marist- they have it all. Even though I think they graduated some good shooters and players, I think it is always a head-to-head game with them. That was also the game that we were going into for the semifinals when the tournament got cut short.
Q: What drew you to Fairfield when you were considering collegiate basketball programs?
A: My story is a little bit different because I am a walk-on. I didn’t get recruited to play here. I chose Fairfield strictly because of its academics and because of the vibe I got as a student rather than a student-athlete. When I came into college, I did know that whatever school I chose, I would want to be a part of the basketball program, and coming into it I just wanted a manager’s position. I reached out to the coach because I knew that I wanted to become a coach in the future, and it wouldn’t be good for me to be totally away from the sport for four or five years. I ended up trying out for the practice team, which is filled with guys, and I made it. About a month later, into my first year, the head coach approached me and offered me a spot that had opened. Without any question I said absolutely, not really knowing how much it would change my life for the better. It has been life-changing.
Q: What do you think makes the basketball program here so unique?
A: Our program has always been a family, no matter what or who is on the team. The older you get, the bigger your family gets, because your seniors from your first year are people you still keep in contact with. I know almost every team would say that, but I think it is especially true for our team. We live together, we go to bat for each other no matter what, we take one another under our wing and we do things that other teams don’t really do for each other.
Q: Do you have a favorite memory during your career here at Fairfield?
A: Every year we do a secret Santa because we are all usually here during the holidays. We only get about three or four days to go home, and when we do we usually take people who live too far away to go home with us. We did secret Santa last year, and I remember wondering about what I was going to get from someone else and what to get for my person. When we did it, everyone was opening their gifts, and it was like we all knew our person so well. Everyone got something that was so personal to them, and it showed how well we know each other. We just knew all of these little details about each other, and it really reaffirmed our relationships.
Q: What is one goal you hope to accomplish during your final season?
A: For us, I think our biggest goal is to win the MAAC championship. To elaborate on that, I think my perspective is always different because I am someone who wants to be a coach. My goal for the team is to go into every practice as if it is a game and give it our all. I have always been an advocate for hard work, especially in those practice situations. My motto has always been “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” Just to go in with the mentality that if I go in and work really hard, I am making the girl next to me better. We all want to get better for the game that matters the most, and that is the one with the trophy at the end.”
The first game for Fairfield women’s basketball is scheduled for Dec. 9, with an away game against Iona College. MAAC and the National College Athletic Association guidelines in place regulate for no spectators at the games until Dec. 23, when there will be a reevaluation of these restrictions. All home games this season will be played on George Bisacca Court at Alumni Hall, with construction of the new Convention Center to begin next year. The Stags will be scheduled to play on Wednesdays and Saturdays throughout the season.