The Fairfield University women’s basketball team began their home campaign in the Leo D. Mahoney Arena on Nov. 18, 2022, securing a win in the arena’s inaugural game. 

The 7 p.m. match boasted a battle between the Stags and the Stonehill College Skyhawks, a team who was winless going into Nov. 18 according to their official schedule. The Skyhawks lost to Lehigh University, Providence College and the University of Buffalo.

According to the official athletics website for Fairfield University, this game was the first time that the Stags and Skyhawks faced off against each other. 

With the return of the Red Sea, Fairfield University’s student section, the Stags were able to channel their confidence and spirit into a victory over the struggling Skyhawks. In fitting fashion, the Stags picked up their 700th victory in program history, a large milestone to be crossed during Mahoney Arena’s first game.

“After winning the first game in the new Leo D. Mahoney arena it felt like a relief,” graduate student forward Callie Cavanaugh stated, referring to their win. “There was a lot of talk and build up to that game and winning was the best result we could hope for.”

“It means everything that we were the first ever team to win a game in our new arena, Janelle Brown ‘24 stated. “I feel like we deserved to be the first to play in the new arena, and we didn’t disappoint either, we showed the school and community what Fairfield women’s basketball can do.”

“This game really allowed us to show the community and students what our program is made of,” Cavanaugh continued. “We made a name for ourselves that night and I’m hoping it continues with more home games to come.”

According to the game’s official box score, the Stags kept their foot on the gas the entire game, with the offense either tying or out-scoring the Skyhawks in every single quarter. 

The Stags’ starting five undertook most of the offensive workload, with graduate student forward Andrea Hernangomez slotting in personal season-high records in multiple columns. Her official stats page shows that against Stonehill, she broke her personal-bests in points (20), field goals made (7), three-point field goals made (3) and attempted (4), as well as assists (7) and steals (5). 

Hernangomez’s impressive night was coupled with standout performances by Brown, guard Mimi Rubino ‘24 and Cavanaugh herself, who all posted nine points on the night, according to the box score.

The Stags converted on 52.5% of field goals they attempted. They additionally were successful in roughly 44% of their three-point attempts. 

The roars coming from the Red Sea pushed the Stags past the Skyhawks to secure the first-ever win at the new arena. The win was met with fans in the student section rushing onto the court to cheer with the players. 

I think the atmosphere gave us an extra boost of confidence and energy in the games,” Brown continued. “The atmosphere of the Red Sea was everything I’ve dreamed of because I’ve never played a game in front of them.”

Brown, a member of Fairfield’s starting five, acknowledged the difference between last year’s pace of play and this year’s under first-year head coach Carly Thibault-DuDonis. 

“This year, we want to run teams out of the court,” Brown expressed. “We have great team chemistry and our pace dictates the way we play. We want to catch teams off guard with our toughness and grit.”

The later portion of the weekend found the Stags taking George Bisacca Court at Mahoney Arena once again, this time in a showdown with the University of Michigan Wolverines on Nov. 20 at 2 p.m.

Similar to Stonehill, their game against the Wolverines was the first time the two women’s basketball programs have ever met. However, Michigan’s team came out of the season’s floodgates strong with commanding victories over Daemen University, Delaware State University, St. Francis University and Western Michigan University. 

Their first three games, according to their official schedule, were all won by margins greater than 50 points.

The on-court dominance of the Wolverines was too much for Fairfield, as their faceoff led to a 69-53 final score. Although the Stags lost the game, they came closest to beating them out of the Wolverines’ six total matches so far. 

“What I learned playing from a bigger school like Michigan is that we can compete with anyone,” Cavanaugh stated. “It all comes down to being able to control what we can control as a team.”

Michigan, who is ranked 23rd in the country, was held to their lowest amount of points on the season by the Stags, according to the game’s official recap. Although Fairfield tied Michigan in points in the final frame of the game, the Wolverines out-scored the Stags in the first three quarters. 

Although the game was within one with two minutes left in the first half, Michigan went on a scoring spree that elevated them to a 34-25 lead. 

Redshirt Junior Izabela Nicoletti-Leite brought in 10 points of her own on Sunday, with Rubino posting eight. 

While Michigan’s offensive production was mostly driven by their starting five, Fairfield’s scoring was more spread out, with MacKenzie Daleba ‘24 and MacKenzie Martin ‘23 each potting four points.

After their game against Michigan, the Stags had a 10-day break ahead of their Wednesday, Nov. 30 matchup against Fordham University.

Their upcoming schedule will see them embark on a three-game road trip before finally returning home to Leo D. Mahoney Arena on Sunday, Dec. 11. This slate includes their game against Fordham, and games against Binghamton University and the University of Dayton before their home standoff against Sacred Heart University on the eleventh. 

Dating all the way back to the mid-1980s, the Stags have “locked antlers” with the Rams 15 times, which Fairfield has won 13 of. However, there is about a 25-year gap since the last contest between the two, and according to Fordham’s official schedule, they have gone toe-to-toe with high-caliber programs like the University of Maryland and even Princeton University. They beat Yale, who stopped the Stags in their tracks earlier this season.

With the weekend split, Cavanaugh reinforces the mindset the team has carried with them. “Our coaches emphasize everyday that there is no room to take plays off whether that be in practice or in a game. Everyone must show up to play, whether you play 40 minutes or five. It takes a team to win, and not just one player,” she claimed.

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