A look, and some initial thoughts on the opening weekend of the season by the MAAC's women's teams...
- Fairfield looks much the same in earning tournament title
The Stags got off to a 2-0 start, winning games Friday and Saturday to earn the championship of the Emerald Beach Hotel Classic tournament in Corpus Christi, Tex.
In the opener, the Stags rallied from a 46-44 deficit late in the game with a 15-8 closing run to knock off UAB in an opening-round game of the Islander Tournament in Corpus Christi, Tex. 59--54.
As usual, it was tough defense that helped Fairfield. UAB only got scoring from four players, and only three scored more than two points.
Fairfield was much more balanced, with five players scoring points in the late-game 15-8 run.
Senior Katie Cizynski showed why she was a first-team all-MAAC preseason pick, getting 14 points and four rebounds in the first game and, then, adding 18 and 8 in Saturday's championship game, a 58-55 victory over host A &M Corpus Christi.
Cizynski was named the event's MVP.
She got plenty of help as sophomore teammate Kristin Schatzlein showed she's on the verge of a breakout season with 10 points in Friday's game. In Saturday's championship game, junior guard Alexys Vazquez had a game-high 20 points and displayed her usual long-range accuracy by making 6-of-9 from beyond the three-point stripe. Kristin Miller, a 6-1 freshman forward, chipped in with 11 points and 9 rebounds off the bench in the title contest.
Fairfield was clinging to a three-point lead late in the championship game, and forced the host to miss their final four shots over the last 26 seconds.
- Quinnipiac wins first as MAAC program
Quinnipiac won 30 games last season and advanced to the NCAA tournament. Friday, it got its first victory since joining the MAAC in the off-season, a decisive 77-63 over a good, veteran North Carolina A&T team.
Quinnipiac has four starters back from a year ago, and was picked to finish third this season by the coaches in their preseason poll.
Jasmin Martin, a 5-8 junior guard, led all scorers for the winners with a near-perfect game. She scored 22 points, making all seven shots she took from the field (5-for-5 on three's). Her only miss in the game was on a free throw (3-for-4).
- Siena meets tough foe in opening game
Siena trailed by as many as 30 points late in the first half before it started to play a little better after the intermission while suffering a lopsided, 69-42, loss to UAlbany.
The Great Danes went unbeaten in America East play last season and went to the NCAA tournament. They lost four starters from that team, but two of last year's reserves were picked to be first-team all-league players this season.
Siena coach Ali Jaques gave extensive minutes to the team's three healthy freshmen, and got a game-high 13 points from 6-2 first-year player Meghan Donohue. Junior guard Tehresa Coles added 12 points for Siena.
- Iona beats Arizona, loses to Bowling Green
The Gaels got plenty of late-game heroics in earning an 82-75 overtime victory against high-major opponent Arizona in the opener of their own Tip-Off Classic in New Rochelle, N.Y. And, then, they couldn't get a closing seconds' roll on a shot while falling to tough Bowling Green in the championship game.
Bowling Green earned a 51-50 decision over Iona in Saturday's championship contest. The Gaels had a chance to win, but a jumper by Damika Martinez with eight seconds remaining did not fall.
Martinez did little else wrong over the weekend. The league's leading scorer the past two seasons and defending MAAC Player of the Year, had 35 points in the opener against Arizona and 22 against Bowling Green, a team that went to the WNIT a year ago.
Joy Adams, last year's conference Rookie of the Year, had 22 points and 12 rebounds in the victory over Arizona.
In that one, Martinez hit a trey with eight seconds remaining to tie things up at the end of regulation. And, then, she had eight points in overtime as Iona outscored the visitors, 14-7, in the extra session.
Good News at Rider, despite loss to Lafayette
The Broncs went on the road, dropping a 67-62 contest at Lafayette, but were within a point with 1:22 remaining (and, only scored one more point the rest of the way). Still, there was some good news.
the best was that former standout swingplayer Shereen Lightbourne was back on the court for the first time after missing two full seasons with knee injuries. She only played four minutes, but she did play.
Otherwise, Player of the Year candidate MyNeshia McKenzie had a big game with 24 points and 12 rebounds. And, 6-foot-3 junior center Marritta Gillcrease appears ready to step to help replace an otherwise decimated front line from a year ago. She had a nice game with five points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots.
Marist can't quite hang with big-time foe
Marist might well be the best team in the MAAC once again, but without much height it struggled against No. 7 ranked Kentucky on Friday, losing 75-61.
Still, a nice treat for Marist fans to bring one of the best teams nationally to Poughkeepsie where a sell-out crowd of 3,200 was on hand.
Marist, basically, started four perimeter players alongside forward Emma O'Connor (10 points, 7 rebounds). Kentucky held a decisive 47-32 edge on the boards with a lineup that included a 6-3 senior center and a standout 6-1 forward. The Wildcats had three other players 6-2 or taller who saw action in the game.
Guard Leanne Ockenden led Marist with 16 points and four steals, while freshman forward Kat Fogarty came off the bench to play 27 minutes and get 11 points and three rebounds in her college debut.
Niagara struggles in loss to Lehigh
Niagara, decimated by early player defections since last season, was behind by 12 at halftime before suffering a 93-73 loss at home against Lehigh.
Still, some bright moments. Junior guard Meghan McGuinness, one of the league's top snipers, poured in a career-high 25 points including a 7-for-12 effort from beyond the three-point stripe.
Highly touted freshman forward Victoria Rampada also had a strong college debut with 15 points and five rebounds, despite foul trouble. And, sophomore guard Taylor McKay, who only averaged 1.2 points playing in just 13 games last season, broke loose for 10 points in the contest.
Could this be the year for Canisius?
The Golden Grifins, with an experienced squad that is looking to improve over a 6-12 MAAC finish last season, opened up non-league play with a solid 77-67 victory over Detroit, powered by some old hands.
Senior forward Jamie Ruttle led the way with 19 points, while another senior, guard Jen Morabito, chipped in with 13. And, returning sophomore starter point guard Tiahana Mills had nine points, six assists and just three turnovers.
Freshman Lauren D'Hont, a 5-11 guard, also broke in with a nice game, scoring 12 points in 25 minutes.
Monmouth arrives in MAAC with a loss
The Hawks, making their debut in the conference, sufferd a 64-54 setback at the hands of a solid Yale team.
The Yalies played tough defense, particularly against third-team preseason all-MAAC pick Chavannah Paalvast, a senior guard, who was held to five points on 2-of-14 shooting.
Junior 6-4 center Sara English also found the going tough on the offensive end, scoring just two points while contributing 12 rebounds. Shira Shecht led all scorers for Monmouth with 13 points, the team's only double-digit total.