A 70-53 win over No. 6 Loyola propelled the women’s basketball team into the MAAC Tournament semifinals where the No. 3 Stags will face No. 2 Iona. The win was Fairfield’s eighth in a row which improves the team to 18-12 overall.

Fairfield raced out to a huge lead in the first 20 minutes, entering halftime up by 22 points. Seniors Stephanie Geehan and Tara Flaherty paced the Stags, scoring 13 and 12 points respectively in the opening period.

“I thought that in the first half today, we played as well as we have all season,” said Fairfield head coach Joe Frager. “Physically and emotionally, we were hitting on all cylinders, .”

But in the second half, the Stags hit a dry spell, scoring only 3 points in the first six minutes as Loyola clawed back to within nine points.

“I thought in the first 10 minutes of the second half, we alternated between being too tentative and being too aggressive,” said Frager.

Fairfield weathered the storm and held on for the win.

“We’ve learned a lot of lessons throughout the season, and the lesson we learned today is that we can’t get down 22 points,” said Loyola head coach Joe Logan.

But Fairfield was able to hold on for the win, where they will face the Gaels, who Fairfield beat for the first time in four years this season. The teams split the season series, with each team winning on its home court.

“Iona is very deep, very big and very talented,” said Frager. “They do a great job at pressure defense. It’s nice we were able to beat them at our place, but at this stage, you can throw out the regular season. You can’t put too much stock into that win.”

Geehan agreed that finally beating Iona didn’t increase Fairfield’s chances of repeating the effort.

“It’s a tough game either way,” said Geehan. “We have respect for them. We just have to listen to the coaching staff during our walk-through and stick to the game plan.”

Fairfield will play less the Gaels than 24 hours after its opening win, tipping against Iona at 9:30 a.m. Saturday morning.

“I don’t mind it,” said Frager. “It doesn’t give you time to wander around the hotel, think and get nervous. Ideally maybe we’d like to play a little bit later, but we understand the format. I don’t think I’m going to sleep tonight anyway.”

Logan praised the Stags after the game, especially their frontcourt.

“Since Joe has taken (junior Joelle) Nawrocki out of the starting lineup, they’ve been great,” he said. “Geehan is one of the best posts in the league and (sophomore Taryn) Johnson is an undersized post, like a baby Barkley. Geehan, the senior that she is, knocks down every big shot. They do such a good job at running a half-court offense. It’s not like they just got hot, they’re very good.”

Geehan has carried the team at times this season and during the game became only the fourth player in program history and the 10th player in MAAC history to score 1,000 points and grab 1,000 rebounds in her career. She posted her 19th double-double during the win, scoring 22 points with 16 rebounds along with four blocks and four steals. Geehan was also named the MAAC Defensive Player of the Year earlier in the week.

Up next for the Stags, Fairfield will face one of the deepest teams in the league against Iona. In February, the Gaels won 75-63 in a hard fought game, but two weeks later, Fairfield rebounded with a 72-59 win on its senior day.

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