Even though the Fairfield University women’s basketball team ended the season with two straight losses in the postseason and missed another opportunity to make the NCAA tournament, the Stags should only feel pride in their 2011-12 campaign.

“If someone had said before the season started ‘you can get 20 wins if you sign right here,’ I probably would have signed,” fifth year head coach Joe Frager said. “24 is beyond what I thought we would be able to accomplish.”

Not only did the squad win 24 games (one fewer than a program record), but they also had another appearance in the MAAC championship game and made the WNIT for only the second time in program history.

“Everyone but three teams lose their last game of the year,” Frager said.  “They just did a great job.  The seniors went out on the right note, a lot of younger kids stepped up and played some major minutes for us this year so I’m tremendously proud of this group.”

This season is a big step up for the program that Frager is developing.  They got key contributions from players who did not have a big effect last year and they have the building blocks going into the future.

Senior Desiree Pina, who was named to the All-MAAC second team, has seen the results of all the hard work that the group has put into the Stags: “When I first came here the program was starting to build but I think over the four years we built something more … this program is definitely not stopping.”

The senior class helped make this program develop.  Pina, all-MAAC first team selection Taryn Johnson ’12, and captain Sarah Paulus ’12 played in their last game as Stags, and Frager knows they have helped put the initial marks on the long road that is the women’s basketball program.

“All three of them have meant a lot to the university and the program each in their own way,” Frager said.  The group has seen 80 wins,  two MAAC title games, two 20 win seasons, and two postseason appearances. “There’s a lot of kids in college that don’t come close to 80 wins and two postseason appearances,” Frager said.  “I think they helped reinvigorate the program … we’re sorry to see them go but I know all three of them are going to go off to bigger and better things.”

Pina, who was one of three Stags to score their 1,000th point this season, feels the same way about her coach.

“Words can’t really describe,” she said.  “Of course he’s a coach  -there’s going to be days when we can’t stand each other- but I love the guy … I learned so much from him and he really made me into the player that I am today.”

She also became the 12th player in MAAC history to graduate with 1,200 points, 400 rebounds, 300 assists, 100 steals and 100 three pointers made.

These seniors have helped make the program what it is today: a formidable competitor in the MAAC conference and a threat to Marist for a couple of titles.

“The last banner that went up there was in 2001, and we’re putting one up next year,” Frager said.  “That’s an 11 year hiatus so this is a really nice step forward and I think when that banner is up there next year they’ll have a sense of pride.”

Now the talk is about that next year.  Fairfield will lose 43% of their scoring and two players who were named to all-conference teams.  With a young team that will include three new recruits that have committed, Frager knows that next season will be about what got the program to where it is today: hard work.

“There’s a truckload of work to be done in the off-season,” he said.  “We need to get physically stronger as a team…we got to get some multi-dimensional players out there, but the bar has been set and I think our younger kids want to do as well as they possibly can next year.”

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