Tom McKiver/The Mirror

The finish of the 2011 season was anything but amazing.

The Fairfield University women’s basketball team ended their year with a loss in the MAAC Quarterfinals, a game that set the record for the lowest combined score in a tournament game.

This year, they wanted to change that.

“Over the summer we focused on one common goal, to be better than last year and win games,” said senior Taryn Johnson.

So far, so good.

Even though the team was pre-ranked fourth in the MAAC, the Stags are one of the biggest surprises in the conference as they have compiled a 16-5 record and are 9-1 in MAAC contests, good enough for second in the conference.

“It’s been beautiful,” said Johnson. The reigning MAAC Player of the Week is averaging a team high 13.3 points per game mid-way through the season.

The squad has won 13 of their last 15 games, with the only losses coming to the 6 time defending MAAC Champions Marist Red Foxes and the nationally renowned UCONN Huskies.

They are coming off a weekend in which they defeated Iona and Manhattan (teams that are 3rd and 4th in the conference respectively) by a combined 23 points.

“The togetherness and focus [over the weekend] was amazing,” said Johnson.

Besides their three known commodities in Taryn Johnson, Desiree Pina and Katelyn Linney who average 59 percent of the teams scoring, the Stags have also been guided by their role players in 2012.

Sophomore Alexys Vasquez, who only averaged a little over 8 minutes a game last year, is shooting an amazing 48 percent from behind the arc, which should be good for second in the nation!

“She’s stepped up big time any team we play has to respect her,” said Johnson.

The Berlin, Connecticut native has now found herself a regular in the starting lineup and now averages over 28 minutes per contest.

Another player who has contributed to the team is Katie Cizynski.  The sophomore is shooting over 45 percent from the field midway through the year.

Unlike other programs in the competitive MAAC Conference, the Fairfield Stags are not built around one or two superstars.  Instead they are comprised of different pieces, each with their own individual job, and when they work together that’s what makes a team.

“Last year we were young,” said Johnson. But this year they are more experienced being led by three seniors and have only one freshman on the roster.  And so far that experience is paying off.  Although they might not grab the attention from fans or media outlets, Taryn Johnson and the Stags are okay with their 9-1 conference record.

“If they are sleeping on us….that’s fine,” said Johnson. The team will play Rider on Thursday in their final game at the Webster Bank Arena.  With the way things went the first half of the year, the end of 2012 might just be amazing.

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