What better day than Friday the 13th to open the regular season? The women’s basketball team opened its doors to welcome the La Salle Explorers to Alumni Hall for the first game of the season. After coming into the game missing one of their most talented scorers in Kristin Schatzlein ‘16 due to injury, Kelsey Carey ‘17 came off the bench to lead the Stags with a total of 19 points to lead Fairfield past La Salle 62-59.
“It means everything right now because we’re just opening our season. We’re missing one of our starters, one of our best scorers Kristin Schatzlein, so this means more than people realize to us to get a win without her and to get it for one another,” said Carey after Friday’s win.
The start to the game saw domination from the Stags on both ends of the court; just five minutes into the game, Fairfield held a slim 3-2 lead all that would change once Carey checked into the game. “Just to pick up the tempo, obviously I go in any game hoping to score and get some stops, but honestly today I was just going in hoping to pick my team up and get scores,” said Carey.
Carey did more than just pick up the tempo — she took it all the way home scoring on eight consecutive points to give Fairfield the 11-2 lead with just three minutes remaining in the first. Carey would continue her production throughout the game to finish with a team-high 19 points off the bench. When asked about Carey’s play, head coach Joe Frager said, “She really is a starter, but as a coach sometimes you like to have that kid on the bench who can come right in and give you instant offense.”
The second quarter of play seemed no different than the first as Fairfield again locked down defensively on the La Salle offense. “That’s probably the one thing we stress the most at pregame was the need to get out to a really fast start because we knew how athletic this team was and that they were a very difficult matchup for us,” said Frager.
Fairfield’s defense limited La Salle to just nine points in the second quarter. While La Salle struggled, the Stags’ offense exploded to increase their lead to 18 with a 33-15 lead heading into the half.
The Stags added another 20 to their lead through the first four minutes of the third. But slowly the Explorers made a run to cut the lead down to six. “In the second half, when we got the lead I think our focus went a little bit and they really started pressuring us and attacking the basket. When we started to commit those hand check fouls, I think we lost our composure there in the third quarter,” said Frager.
Although the visiting team cut the lead, Fairfield was able to finish the quarter 50-44. “We didn’t ease up, we didn’t let them get to our head and we just kept going at them no matter how hard they were coming at us,” said Carey of the team’s fight.
The fourth quarter saw La Salle become a contender once again, battling back down 20, leaving Fairfield to have only a two-point lead 1:19 left in the game. After a Casey Smith ‘17 miss, Samantha Cooper ’18 grabbed the offensive rebound but was fouled in the act of shooting which forced the forward to the charity stripe, where she knocked down both to give Fairfield the 61-57 edge with less than a minute left in the game.
After a Fairfield foul sent La Salle to the stripe, the lead was back to two when Kristen McLaughlin ’18 shot from three but missed, followed her shot and got the steal with less than 10 seconds left in the game. “That was a really big play. McLaughlin got the steal and now we got that new rule where you can advance the ball at the end of the game and that’s what we tried to do with the one tick on the clock,” said Frager of the team’s finish. Senior Lizzy Ball made one of two shots from the line to seal the 62-59 win.
“We got a win tonight without Schatzlein and that’s huge and also with Macey Hollenshead ‘18 being out with her injured collarbone. Lizzy never came out the floor tonight, Cooper didn’t come out the floor tonight so I thought it was tremendous effort against a talented team that’s going to win a lot of games in the A10,” said Frager of Friday’s win. The Stags will be back in action when they travel to Maryland to take on Loyola on Wednesday, Nov. 18.