Three Stags will take on the role of captains of the Fairfield University women’s basketball team. Redshirt senior Katie Armstrong, Rachel Hakes ‘22 and Lou Lopez-Senechal ‘22 were chosen to take on the task. This is following a disappointing last season when the Stags were sent home from the 2020 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championships due to the coronavirus pandemic, with a 12-8 conference record. The three are feeling as ready as ever to hit the court again, and expressed their excitement for the season ahead to The Mirror, via email.
- How has such an abrupt end to last season inspired your goals for this season? What are these goals?
Armstrong: Having such an abrupt end to the season last year helped fuel the fire during the offseason to train and come back ready for this season. I will never forget the feeling I had when I heard that the tournament was cancelled and our season was over after coming off of a win. That feeling helped push me through the summer during quarantine and kept me focused. My goals are to: 1) Have a season and 2) Win the MAAC Championship.
Hakes: The end of our season last year seriously stung. It still stings to think about it. Our seniors weren’t given the chance to finish out their careers and we were all denied our run at the MAAC title. It has really put a chip on our shoulder coming into this season. You never know when it could be your last practice or game. We have a championship caliber team with a goal of winning the MAAC this year.
Lopez-Senechal: Having to stop the season suddenly last March definitely made an impact in my life, and left some marks. However, it also made me more motivated for the upcoming season. It made me realize that nothing can be taken for granted, and that some goals can be shut down when we least expect it. We were in a good position to win the championship last year and I want to make it happen again this year and win it all.
- With a definitive date set for the first game of this year, do you feel hopeful that the team will see competition time given the current suspension of athletics?
Armstrong: Yes, I do feel confident that we will be playing soon enough. The athletic department, our coaches and the school are doing everything they can to ensure that we will have a season. They are making every effort to keep us safe, and they are doing everything in their power to see to it that we have a season.
Hakes: I am hopeful that we will see competition this year. Suspension is frustrating for everyone, but it is important to stay dialed in mentally and physically. It is inevitable that there will be bumps in the road, especially during such uncertain times.
Lopez-Senechal: Yes, I keep feeling hopeful that we will have a season, even though we go through ups and downs. We are all trying to stay safe in order to be able to compete this year, and we don’t lose hope no matter the circumstances. I think it is important to keep having faith, so we all stay prepared and motivated.
- As a captain on this team, how do you plan on building and maintaining strong bonds between your teammates, especially the first-years, during such a tumultuous and isolating time?
Armstrong: As a grad student, this will be my fourth year at Fairfield. During my time here, building relationships with my teammates has always felt effortless. We are such a close team, and that is part of the reason why I wanted to come to Fairfield in the first place. The relationships we built last year were definitely strengthened by how our season ended, and also having to be apart for six months. I think this team does a nice job of welcoming first-years and being inclusive towards newcomers. The first-years are also very friendly and outgoing, so creating bonds with them was easy. It was a little bit strange for them having to join the team during this time, but they are handling it well.
Hakes: It is definitely a challenge to remain connected amid suspension and limited group gatherings on campus. However, we have already had the chance to workout together and to start building those bonds. With the technology that we have today, there is no excuse for not staying connected. We can check-in on each other, catch up and help with homework via FaceTime.
Lopez-Senechal: I think it is important to value each moment we have with each other. We all already have strong bonds that we don’t want to lose, so we try to enjoy the times we have together on and off the court when it is possible. We also want the first-years to feel included, so we always let them know that we are here for them if they need us. Whenever we have some time with them, we try to get to know them more, and vice versa.
- How has basketball transformed your experience here at Fairfield?
Armstrong: Being on the Fairfield women’s basketball team has given me some of the greatest friendships and memories of my life. Over the last three years here, I have learned what it means to be a teammate on the court and a friend off of the court. As a student-athlete, pretty much everything you do revolves around either your sport or academics. I spend a lot of time in the gym with my teammates or on the road traveling to away games. The moments in between the action, like the bus rides, the locker room laughs or the Tuesday night movies are memories I will always cherish.
Hakes: Being an athlete at Fairfield has allowed me to find my voice and use it for the better. It has helped me discover opportunities, both academically and athletically, that I never thought were possible. The bonds I have with my teammates and the athletic community are something that I will cherish forever. Our team truly has a family atmosphere.
Lopez-Senechal: Basketball has had a huge impact on my experience at Fairfield, and it still does. As a matter of fact, it plays a major role in my life and it makes my life here better. It makes the year more exciting and enjoyable. Basketball also helps me to feel more comfortable here and away from home. My teammates are part of the reason why I love being in Fairfield and being on this team.
- What expectations, if any, do you have for this group of athletes during the 2020-21 season? Is it hard to have expectations when everything seems so uncertain?
Armstrong: I have very high expectations for this group. I want, and I expect, to win a MAAC Championship this year. Of course, we will have to work our butts off each and everyday during the season. But, I think we are very talented, motivated and we have a lot of players with experience. As long as we do what we need to do, I expect success this year. We are going to keep working towards our goal of a championship regardless of what this season throws at us.
Hakes: I expect that everyone will put 110 percent in every day and I expect to win the MAAC. Navigating these times is very difficult, but everyone is going through the same thing. It has given us the opportunity to band closer together and really cherish each moment that we do have on the court.
Lopez-Senechal: Sometimes, it is hard to have expectations and the right mindset when things are unsure. However, I have high expectations for this group and I really believe we can do something good this year. We have a lot of potential and I expect for us to show it on the court this season. I also expect us to compete as much as we can in order to not have any regrets.
- With formal practices at a standstill, how do you stay in peak physical shape with limited resources?
Armstrong: Get creative! I like to take the standstill as an opportunity to do more workouts that I enjoy. For me, I enjoy going on longer runs and running on grass fields. I also will join my teammates for workouts in small groups. Meg Morelli [‘21] likes to come up with some tough workouts, so we will do those to stay in shape.
Hakes: With formal practices at a standstill, it is so important to be intentional. Simple body weight and conditioning workouts can keep us in great mental and physical shape. We can also get creative by finding heavy things around our apartments/dorms to lift.
Lopez-Senechal: We have to adapt ourselves to the situation we are being put into, so that means working out in our dorm or at home if we are able to, running outside or finding a court somewhere. It is very hard to go from lifting in a weight room to doing bodyweight in a room, but I think we can all find a way to stay in shape daily and do what we can.
- What qualities do you believe are important for you to possess as a leader on this team?
Armstrong: As a leader, I think it is extremely important to hone in on interpersonal skills. A leader is someone who is supposed to bring out the best in others, and make everyone around them better. Communication, consistency and patience are things that I will be working on this season. Younger players tend to look up to older players, so I want to set a good example for them and try to make them better. Leading by example will be important, and I think that our captains and older players can, and will, do that.
Hakes: I think it is super important to practice what you preach, expect the best out of yourself and your teammates and be willing to hold people accountable. Leaders come in all different forms; they don’t always have to be the loudest voices in the room. I think Lou, KT and I bring very different things to the table that complement each other and enrich our culture.
Lopez-Senechal: As a leader on this team, I believe it is important to always try to be an example for others so people can look up to you. In competing, every time you step on the court is showing leadership, and this is what I always want to do, no matter what the results are. I also think that accepting your mistakes, keeping your head up and having self-control over your emotions are qualities that a leader should have. Being vocal and communicative is also important in a leadership role, and it is something I continue to work on each day.
- What message do you have for your teammates, coaches and fans regarding your intentions as a team captain?
Armstrong: As a captain, I am going to do everything I can to help my team win and have fun throughout the process. I want to continue to learn and grow in this leadership position, so that I can be the best captain and teammate that I can be.
Hakes: I would like to thank my coaches and teammates for trusting me with the role of captain. It is a title that I do not take lightly. I promise to be a constant support to my teammates and to bring intensity and a competitive edge every day. I am willing to do anything it takes to cut down nets at the end of this year.
Lopez-Senechal: First of all, I am very grateful and happy to be a captain for the team, it means a lot that my coaches trust me. It gives me confidence for the rest of my career. I will always want to show that I can be a good leader and push my teammates to be the best that they can be. I love being part of this program, and I can’t wait to make more memories with my teammates and try to accomplish the end goal, which is to win the MAAC Championship. I also hope that the fans will keep supporting us, no matter what the outcomes are! Go Stags!
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