The women’s basketball team did not end the 2010-11 season on the note that it had hoped, falling to Monmouth 55-36 in the Northeast Conference Quarterfinals.
“We were down two at halftime, and in the second half Monmouth really came out and dominated,” head coach Tricia Fabbri said of the season-ending game.
Despite the heartbreak ending to a season that saw the Bobcats go 11-7 in the NEC and 14-16 overall, expectations are high for the veteran leaders and six new recruits as they face a difficult schedule.
The schedule, including a rematch against Monmouth Feb. 4, a trip to the west coast to take on Saint Mary’s, and a face-off against Minnesota out of the Big Ten present immediate and obvious challenges, but Fabbri also noted a more personal match up.
“A couple other games that we highlight are Fairfield here (Nov. 20), that’s my alma mater,” she said. “We went down last year, and we still got a bad taste in our mouth. We didn’t play as well as we would have liked to last year, so it’s nice having the Stags come and return the favor for us.”
As the Bobcats prepare to fight for redemption this season, they have welcomed a luxury that has been a struggle in the past: depth in the lineup.
This interchangeable roster is largely in part of the talented recruitment class who will soon make its debut. Added to the roster are Gillian “Boo” Abshire from Washington D.C. and Shaina Earle from Blair Academy in New Jersey, both point guards.
Fabbri described Earle as “really a pest on defense” even though “she is a bit on the smaller size at 5-foot-4.” In addition to Abshire and Earle, the Bobcats have added Sam Guastella, Jasmine Martin, Nikoline Ostergaard, and Jaci Oskam, “a silky smooth shooter.”
“The last couple of years, we’ve been nicked by some really important injuries to some important players, and that cut down the depth to go the pace we wanted to play,” Fabbri said. “I think we have, right now, those pieces to run our system effectively and be better and more aggressive defensively.”
With the fresh faces on the court, the veteran players have also already worked hard, “making them feel comfortable.”
Although the Bobcats lost four seniors, including All-NEC First Team player Courtney Kaminski, and Jacki Mann, who elected not to return and graduate this upcoming December, the rest of the veterans are hardly going unnoticed.
Returning starters include Jacinda Dunbar, Kari Goodchild and Felicia Barron, along with Shelby Sferra and Lisa Lebak.
“We have a nice combination of players who played meaningful minutes for us last year who are a year older now and six young freshmen who are really highly touted recruits,” Fabbri said.
“We’re really trying to blend all those pieces together and build this team and see how good we can become this year. It’s been really competitive on the practice floor so far, so it’s been a really good mix. I think we’re onto something really big.”
With no lack of confidence heading out onto the court, the Bobcats have managed to remain grounded by setting reasonable expectations as the season opens.
Fabbri’s goal is to have each player progress one day at a time to “get in a position so that we’ll be playing for a championship in March. Now that doesn’t happen by saying it; it happens by doing it right now.”
Even though the season has yet to begin, it is clear that it is not too early to begin thinking about the future, particularly as Fabbri, entering her 17th season at the school, just signed a contract extension this summer, keeping her at Quinnipiac through the 2015-2016 season.
“I’ve seen it grow from a Division II athletic department to a superior Division I athletic department where we’re sitting on the Hill at the TD Bank,” Fabbri said. “It’s the only place I know is home.”
The Bobcats open up their season at home against James Madison University on Nov. 11 at 4 p.m.
Players to watch
Jacinda Dunbar (Sr., F) – A senior out of Edison, New Jersey who is used to big game pressure. Thus far, Dunbar has “looked phenomenal in workouts” and just overall, “playing great.”
Jasmine Martin (Fr., G) – Coming out of South Jersey, Martin has “broken every scoring record” in her region, according to Fabbri. The head coach pointed her out as “a different level athlete that we’ve had in the program.”
Felicia Barron (Sr., G) – A senior out of Springfield, Mass., Barron was a key contributor to the team’s success last season. Barron is the team’s highest returning scorer, averaging 11.5 points per game last year and also led the team in assists with 118 (3.93 per game), good for fourth in the NEC. Barron also plays a tenacious defense, leading the team with 63 steals last year.