No journey comes without a few bumps in the road. And that’s exactly what the Fairfield University women’s basketball team experienced this past weekend. The squad saw their seven-game winning streak come to an end, while picking up back-to-back losses for only the second time this season.
“I think it could be a wakeup call,” fifth-year head coach Joe Frager said. “One of the things we did today [Tuesday] at practice is we stayed in the locker room. I talked to them for about 30 minutes and we went over some cold hard figures…8 of our 11 wins were that close. The margin was that close.”
The Stags averaged 17.5 turnovers over the weekend, a number that is uncharacteristic to a team that knows how tough the competition can be. “[We got back] to the idea that we don’t have a margin for error, and they all nodded and they all understood that,” Frager said.
Coming into the weekend the Stags had the opportunity to move into first in the league if they had beaten Marist on the road. However, the Stags dropped a six- point decision against the Red Foxes who are looking for their ninth straight regular season championship. But at this point of the year, Frager knows every opponent is important.
“The reality is even if you [win the regular season championship] and get beat in the tournament you’re not going to the NCAA tournament… what we tried to do is say ‘Hey guys, they’re all important regardless of what the record is.”
With the season taking one of its final turns, the Stag’s schedule doesn’t get any easier. They do find themselves all but guaranteed a number two seed in the conference tournament but will have to clinch that spot away from home. The squad will rack up the gas miles, playing three of their final four games on the road, a tough way to end the season for any team.
“The girls have no choice but to do that,” Frager said. “It is a tough trip, it is tough that we got stuck with five of six on the road but if we look at it the right way we can use it to toughen us up.”
Fairfield has hit this speed bump once before. Last year’s team lost four straight regular season games to conclude the season before dropping to Siena in the MAAC Quarterfinals. That past result emphasizes the fact that this team wants to finish on a high note.
“It’s this way in athletics. We live in a ‘what have you done for me lately’ society,” Frager said. “The girls have had a great season so far. No one can take that away. But the irony is if we end the season, and we struggle at the end, that’s what everybody is going to focus on.”
But as noted before, this is a much more tested squad filled with senior leadership. Frager notes how important those experienced players are to help lead the Stags through any tough times.
“That’s what you need at this time of year. When you’ve got seniors coming down to the end of their career who want it as bad as these guys, the only thing you hope for is that they don’t press too much,” Frager said.
With their road trip continuing Coach Frager’s message is simple: “There’s no need to change anything. We just have to get back to playing to our standards and to the level we were playing at.”