Monday, January 26, 2009

Fairfield Women Hope For More

Fairfield women's team coach Joe Frager calls the Lady Stags' victory over Marist on Friday night a "big win."

Which is like calling Moby Dick a big fish.

It's natural for coaches to avoid excess celebrating over a mid-season victory, no matter who the opponent. There are other games to play, and standing positions to be determined, and looking back too fondly can too often disrupt the present.

Still, Fairfield has plenty to to be proud about after knocking off a team rated No. 20 nationally with its 73-65 overtime victory over the Red Foxes in Poughkeepsie.

Marist, which was a perfect 18-0 in MAAC regular-season play last year, entered the contest riding a 35-game winning streak against conference opponents and had won 37 in a row on its home court.

Fairfield is now 12-8 overall and 7-2 in MAAC play and showed that Marist isn't invicible, creating a glimmer of optimism not only for itself but for a few other conference teams when the league's post-season tournament rolls around.

Fairfield played like the upperclass-laden team that it is, making big plays down the stretch and, then, taking over in the overtime session.

Senior forward Baendu Lowenthal led the way with 21 points and 10 rebounds, and was supported by two other seniors, Lauren Groom (14 points) and Shiryell Moore (8 points) and junior Stephanie Geehan (14 points).

Lowenthal is a particularly tough match-up for anyone this year, averaging 16.0 points and 7.6 rebounds. Always an inside presence, she has expanded her game far beyond the paint and has even made four three-pointers this season.

In terms of veteran leadearship, Fairfield has more than any other MAAC team.

"We're starting to respond with solid play from our veterans on a more-consistent basis," said Frager. "We got behind in the first half and didn't fold, which made me very happy. We're starting to grow as a team, but we need to continue to progress."

Progress is coming, though, for a program that at one time was one of the strongest in the conference annually. But, prior to the 2007-08 season the Lady Stags had six straight seasons without a winning overall record.

After the 2006-07 season, school officials made a coaching change bringing in Frager, who spent the previous nine years at Southern Connecticut State University, turning that program into a Division II powerhouse and winning that level's national championship in 2007.

In Frager's first season at Fairfield, last season, the team finished 22-9 overall including a victory over Big East opponent Boston College.

And, now, a victory over Marist.

"Clearly, this is the biggest win since I've been here," said Frager. "It's something we can build on.

"But Marist is as good a team as there is in our league. We want to cherish the victory, but you don't want to hang on to it for too long because we've got another league game coming up (Thursday when the Lady Stags host Siena)."

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