Here's another, and the final, in the series previewing MAAC teams.
Up now ...
2011-12 RECORD TO DATE: 7-4.
2010-11 RECORD 10-8 in MAAC play, 17-13 overall.
COACHES' PRESEASON PREDICTION: 3rd in the MAAC.
KEY RETURNEES (This season's statistics): 5-8 sophomore guard Katelyn Linney (10.2 points, 1.8 rebounds), 5-10 sophomore guard Alexis Vazquez (5.6, 2.2), 5-6 senior guard Desiree Pina (11.0, 4.5, 3.5 assists), 5-11 senior forward Taryn Johnson (11.5, 7.3, 1.8 blocks), 6-2 sophomore forward Kate Cizinski (6.3, 4.3).
KEY LOSSES: Joelle Nawrocki (5.5, 3.2).
NOTES: Four non-conference losses against solid opponents Vermont, Quinnipiac, Providence and UConn. To date, the Stags have won all the games they have been "supposed" to win ... Just about everyone back, but last year's problems, primarily rebounding, remain unsolved. Opponents average 6.4 more rebounds per game than Fairfield ... Johnson, who missed three games recently but has returned, leads the league in blocks and field-goal percentage and is second in rebounding. She is one of the top players in the conference and any chance Fairfield has to legitimately contend for a regular-season crown rests on her continued good health. Pina remains at point guard, where she is somewhat misplaced, but is having a strong senior year. She already has more than 1,000 career points and Johnson and Linney will likely join that club later this season ... Junior forward Brittany MacFarlane (3.9, 5.1) is strong off the bench. Freshman guard Felicia DaCruz looks like she will develop into a nice player, but isn't there yet ... Linney is one of the league's top long-range shooters, and currently leads the MAAC with 2.5 treys per outing... The team doesn't score a lot of points, scoring only more than 56 just twice all year. But, that's not their style. Stags remain one of the better defensive units in the MAAC.
HOW FAIRFIELD CAN WIN: Get just a little more help on the boards. Otherwise the Stags are a team that can be highly competitive, particularly since its best two players are seniors and since Pina is playing much better than a year ago. The Stags are a difficult team to prepare for based strongly on dozens of offensive play sets. Over the last few years, between their strong defense and half-court precision offense they have been a methodical force, and will remain so this year as long as everyone stays healthy. They just need, mostly, to keep doing what they've done in recent years.
PREDICTION: The likelihood is that Marist's sub.-.500 non-league record to date is a product of an extremely challenging schedule. But, if the Red Foxes fall back a little, then Fairfield is one of the teams that will challenge. Otherwise, the Stags will contend for one of the top four spots with a chance to finish as high as second.