When associating women’s basketball with Connecticut, one often thinks of the UConn Huskies. That’s with good reason considering what Geno Auriemma has done with UConn’s women’s basketball is nothing short of incredible.
However, another coach, and another much smaller school in the southern part of the state should be held in high regard as well. That coach is Trish Fabbri, and that school is Quinnipiac University.
On Monday night, Quinnipiac dispatched Rider University to win the MAAC Championship and earn its third trip to the NCAA Tournament in just five seasons. Led by a mix of upperclassmen leadership through players like Adily Martucci and Carly Fabbri and young talent with Jen Fay, Aryn McClure, Paula Strautmane, and other contributors, the 2016-2017 Bobcats were a team built for success.
Students currently attending the university have known little else but winning with their women’s basketball team. Quinnipiac has reached its conference title game five years in a row, with this season marking the sixth consecutive time the program has picked up 20 or more wins. On Feb. 28, College Insider had Quinnipiac ranked fifth in its Mid-Major Top 25 poll. As of March 7, RealtimeRPI.com, a site which tracks teams’ Rating Percentage Indexes from game to game, has the Bobcats tied as the biggest mover inside the top-100, jumping ahead six spots to 33rd in the nation.
You could say this season was all about rallying back for the Bobcats. Jen Fay returned from an ACL injury that forced her to redshirt last year and nearly doubled her point total from her freshman campaign. After suffering a heartbreaking loss to Iona in last season’s MAAC Championship game, this year’s squad which featured many returning players came back with the experience to defeat the Gaels this time around in the semifinal matchup, making up for a 10 point deficit. In fact, Quinnipiac trailed by decent margins in all three MAAC Tournament games, being behind by eight against Canisius and by 10 against Rider.
The Bobcats came out on top in all postseason three games and will be riding a ten-game winning streak into the NCAA Tournament. In two trips to the big dance, the Bobcats have been first round exits both times. In 2013 as a 13-seed, Quinnipiac fell to Maryland who reached the semifinals before losing to eventual champion, UConn. Two years later, Quinnipiac returned to the NCAA Tournament as a 12-seed and faced Oklahoma. The Bobcats were within seven at one point in the second half, but eventually fell to the Sooners, 111-84.
On Monday, Quinnipiac will find out who and where it will play in its third trip to the tournament. This is a deep and talented team with some impressive results this season, including wins over Florida Gulf Coast and Dayton as well as just a three point loss to Temple. The Bobcats should find themselves with either a 12 or a 13-seed come Monday, meaning a matchup against a program like Washington or Louisville may be on the horizon.
While this program is not quite ready to win a national title, it has taken great strides forward in large part due to longtime head coach Tricia Fabbri and her dedication to Quinnipiac. In her 22nd season at the helm, Fabbri is fast approaching 400 career wins and is currently the school’s all-time winningest coach in women’s basketball history.
While the men’s side has struggled to translate its success from the NEC to the MAAC in recent years, the women’s team has only seemed to raise its game to regularly beat the increased level of competition it faces. So long as Fabbri leads Quinnipiac, the team will continue to take steps toward becoming a household name not just in New England but across the country.
Entering the ‘Big Dance’, the Bobcats will feature a healthy mix of mostly young but experienced players to lead them against whoever they will face. Quinnipiac is not on the same level as powerhouses like Notre Dame and neighboring UConn, but the program’s first NCAA Tournament win may come sooner rather than later. Each year has built on top of where the last one left off, and the arrow is pointed straight up on Quinnipiac women’s basketball.