The Fairfield University women’s basketball received some of their first exposure to gameplay this season with two contests this past week. The Stags faced two non-conference opponents on the road, traveling to Providence, R.I., to take on Brown University and State College, Pa., in a battle against Pennsylvania State University.
The Stags made their first stop against Brown on Monday, Nov. 7, defeating the Bears 62-52. It was a statement win for the program, as newly-appointed head coach Carly Thibault-DuDonis picked up her first career win as head coach of the Stags.
The first quarter was a strong start for the Stags, concluding round one with a 19-7 lead. The second quarter was a little more sloppy, being outscored 14-9 while entering halftime with a 28-21 lead.
The third quarter proved to be a continuation of the second, with the Stags losing possession of their lead in the process. They entered the fourth quarter down by three, before bouncing back with a 24-11 run that helped them propel to victory.
When pressed about what transpired for the Stags to pull off the epic comeback, coach Thibault-DuDonis singled out her two veterans, graduate forwards Callie Cavanaugh and Andrea Hernangomez, for displaying strong leadership skills and perseverance.
“I’m really proud of our team,” Head Coach Thibault-DuDonis said, according to the game’s official press release. “It was good to see us fight back from adversity in the third quarter, that’s something we’ve talked about all preseason. Huge senior leadership by Callie, and Andrea [Hernangomez] rebounded the ball very well. All of our guards stepped up and we had some really good senior leadership down the stretch. I’m proud of us, it’s just the beginning for us and we’ll continue getting better every single day.”
Cavanaugh was a key asset in this contest, in particular on the offensive side of the ball. She scored 36 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter. Her clutch performance tied for the second-highest point performance by a Stag in program history, shooting 14-22 from the field in the process.
But Cavanaugh didn’t do all of the work alone, as she was helped by her fellow graduate classmate, Hernangomez, who contributed to the team win by picking up ten rebounds and a block. Janelle Brown ‘24 came in clutch at the free-throw line, sinking four straight free-throws late in the fourth quarter to put the Stags comfortably in the driver’s seat.
After the thrill and excitement of game one, the Stags took on a big challenge as they traveled to Pennsylvania for a tilt against the Nittany Lions of Penn State. Matching up against a power five opponent was always going to be a challenge for the Stags, as they took the loss, 77-49 on Friday, Nov. 11.
The Stags did come out to play, however, outscoring the Nittany Lions 13-12 in the second quarter. They also put up a competitive fight in the third, with the offense keeping up the pace while being outscored 20-18 as well as trimming the overall lead to nine midway through the quarter. Redshirt junior Izabella Nicoletti Leite and Cavanaugh led the offense with 14 and 13 points respectively while Brown stole four balls to go along with eight points and two rebounds.
Three days later, the Stags traveled 20 miles east on I-95 to New Haven, Conn., to face off against Yale University, dropping a nail-biter 68-61. Even though the squad put up a spirited and physical fight, it was not enough to take down the Bulldogs.
This time Brown had herself a big game with a strong game on both sides of the court. She delivered 21 points while also playing hard-nosed, in-your-face defense that helped the Stags force the Bulldogs 20 turnovers on the night. Cavanaugh, the reigning Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference player of the week, contributed 14 points, seven rebounds and two steals in the effort.
One of the big let downs for the Stags in this contest was their shooting woes in the first half, going 6-for-26 from the field, which equates to a .231 shooting percentage. Fairfield’s performance at the free-throw line did offset these struggles initially, accumulating a 90% rate from the line while going 9-for-10 in the process.
Trailing by as many as 11 points at the beginning of the second quarter, the Stags began to find their groove by outscoring Yale 16-15 and 17-15 in the next two quarters. They went on a couple of big runs too, including a 6-0 run in the second that featured Brooke Tatarian ‘25 recording her first career field goal. Their gritty defensive play was on point as well, forcing 11 Yale turnovers in the half.
Coming out of the gate in the third quarter, the Stags continued their masterful play on defense by forcing the ball to go their way five times in the first five minutes of action. They later cut the Yale lead down to three at one point with Cavanaugh delivering four-straight points and three-point sinkers from Brown and Mimi Rubino ‘24.
Unfortunately, this was the closest the Stags came to winning, as the Bulldogs would outscore the Stags 19-12 in the fourth quarter to give them the ensuing win. The Stag’s next game will be on Friday night at 7 p.m. against Stonehill College in a historical game, opening the newly-constructed Leo D. Mahoney Arena.
For more information on Fairfield women’s basketball and Fairfield athletics as a whole, please visit www.fairfieldstags.com for more news, information and updates.