Peter Caty/The Mirror

The last four games of the 2010-2011 regular season were a true test for the Fairfield University women’s basketball team.  They were going up against the only conference opponents that they had lost to this season and thought they had something to prove to them.

However, the squad failed the test, dropping their fourth straight on Sunday bringing their MAAC record down to 10-8 and 17-12 overall.

“Anytime you lose more than two games in a row, I don’t care who you are, it’s going to shake your confidence a little bit,” fourth year head coach Joe Frager said. “It’s our job as a staff to say, ‘Look guys, when we played these teams we weren’t blown out in any of these games, we’ve had some close losses this year and you’re a 17 win team.’”

The Stags have clinched the #5 seed heading into the tournament which will be hosted by Fairfield this weekend. Last year the Stags entered the conference playoffs as winners of seven straight and ran the momentum all the way into the championship game.

This year they are going to have to create their own momentum.  However, Frager does not believe that the recent losses are a result of the team’s inability to defeat an upper class team in the MAAC.

“I think part of the factor in the reason why we struggled is that we happened to run into the four top teams in the league.  Not coincidently, we are also going into a period where we are a little bit banged up,” he said.

The Stags were without two of their post players in the last game.  Freshmen Katie Cizynski is dealing with a hip injury, which has sidelined her from the last couple of games.  The rookie leads all first year players in almost every offensive and defensive category.

Sophomore Laura Vetra was the other casualty for Fairfield.  She is suffering from a sickness that kept her out of the Marist game on Sunday, but she has been cleared to play for the tournament.

“She has been cleared….But physically I don’t know what she’s going to be able to give us,” Frager said. “We need her.”

Despite their recent slide and the question marks regarding the health of their post players, after 29 games the team starts all over again –  and that’s a positive aspect for Frager.

“The good thing we all agreed after the game in the locker room against Marist is [that it’s] a brand new season.  It’s absolutely a brand new season,” Frager said.

The Stags will play on Friday at 3:30 p.m. against the fourth seed Siena.  Fairfield is 0-2 this year against the Saints, losing just a week ago on the same court where this weekend’s game will be held.  Siena is led by senior Serena Moore, who leads the MAAC in scoring and rebounding and is a legitimate choice to win the Player of the Year award.

“You don’t shut a Serena Moore down,” Frager said.  “What you have to do is make sure Serena Moore doesn’t have a monster game.”

These two teams are familiar with playing each other in the playoffs, as they are squaring off in the first game for the fifth time in six years.  All the signs might be pointing against Fairfield, but Frager and his team believe that they have a positive outlook.

“When you look at a game tape and you see there are some things that you can fix, that mistakes were made and there are things you can do better, it gives you a sense of optimism,” he said.

Fairfield will look for the leadership of the three players who were just announced to All-MAAC teams.  Desiree Pina and Katelyn Linney were named to the Second team while junior Taryn Johnson was voted to the league’s First Team.

“She has been one of the top performers in the league,” Frager said.  Johnson is tied for the team lead in points and will be one of the Stag’s biggest options going into the game against Siena.  In the previous two occasions, Johnson was limited in the game due to foul trouble.

The Stags have completed their regular season.  But Friday will start a brand new season.  Records don’t matter in games like this where every pass, every decision, and every dribble brings a higher importance.  They say it’s difficult to beat a team three times, and the Stags will be facing a team where they are already 0-2.  But that will go out the window as well, as Fairfield will begin their journey in the 2011 Spark Energy MAAC Championship.

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