Bobcats making tracks to NEC title

Vagelis Perdikouris

After demolishing UMBC on Saturday afternoon at Burt Kahn Court, the Bobcats moved to 10-1 in the Northeast Conference and 14-6 overall, good for second place in the NEC.

Quinnipiac’s only loss of the season in the conference has come at the hands of a powerful St. Francis (PA) team, who currently sits atop the NEC with a perfect 11-0 record,15-5 overall.

The Bobcats dropped a 72-71 heartbreaker to the Red Flash in Hamden on Jan. 16. Since then the Bobcats have been nothing but perfect, winning seven straight games. Quinnipiac currently holds a national Division I RPI ranking of 165 out of 324 schools in the nation.

With a convincing 67-48 win over UMBC, the women’s basketball team is off to its best start in the school’s Division I history and their best start under head coach Tricia Sacca-Fabbri.

Sacca-Fabbri, who was out during the UMBC game due to illness, is only three victories away from being Quinnipiac women’s basketball all-time winning coach. There will be no problem achieving that goal this season for Sacca-Fabbri, as she has a caliber of players that rank high in the conference in all statistics and a deep bench that is dangerous.

The deadly combination of juniors Ashlee Kelly (Pittsburgh, Pa.) and Sara Esidore (Portland, Conn.) have proven to be too much for any team in the Northeast Conference to handle. Together the two are averaging 32.4 points and 17.3 rebounds per game.

Kelly, who made second team all-NEC honors last year continues to be a force under the basket, averaging a double-double with 16.0 ppg and 12.4 rpg as of Feb. 8. For her efforts she has been elected four-time NEC Player of the Week, recording thirteen double-doubles on the season already. At six feet, the junior standout leads the conference in rebounding and ranks third in the nation for NCAA Division I in the category.

Along with her national rebounding honors, Kelly has been shooting well from the paint, as she ranks 17th in the nation with a field goal percentage of .575. After recording 13 double-doubles, when Kelly was asked why she has remained so consistent in an interview with the NEC.

Kelly said, “Probably because I have not been injured. This year I am healthy and in shape, so I can keep going for the whole game. Once I am on a roll, my mentality is that I can’t be stopped.”

If Kelly continues to go on a roll, not only will she be unstoppable, but the team will be unstoppable in hopes for winning their first ever NEC regular season title and the NEC championship for a bid to the NCAA tournament.

Kelly’s counterpart, Sara Esidore, has also been an integral part to Quinnipiac’s success this season. Wearing jersey number 14, the Connecticut native currently leads the team in scoring, averaging 16.4 ppg,

“I would have to say that my role on the team is to contribute offensively, and be a quiet leader out on the floor. I usually don’t say much, but I try and lead by example,” said Esidore. “However, one advantage of our team is that we have many players who can score, both starters and off the bench. So if someone is having a bad game and their shots aren’t falling, someone else will pick up the slack and score for us.”

In the game against St. Francis (PA), Esidore became Quinnipiac’s all-time leader in career three pointers made, connecting on her 110th trey. Esidore has been unstoppable behind the arc, shooting .360 (40-111) for the season.

Another junior, guard/forward Katie Keilty, has stepped up her play this season and is currently third on the team in scoring, averaging 10.2 ppg. Keilty recorded her first career double-double against the Retrievers on Saturday, scoring 14 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.

The Bobcats outrebounded the Retrievers by 50-24 margin. For the season, the Bobcats have outrebounded opponents 39.3-33.9.

Keilty, a Plainview, N.Y. native, has also been solid behind the arc, going 26-77 on season, for a 33.8 shooting percentage. As a sophomore Keilty was fourth on the team in rebounds (75) and rebounds per game (2.8), fifth in assists (39) and sixth in scoring (121 points, 4.5 points per game).

There is no stopping the Bobcats on their road to victory. The women’s basketball is focused, healthy, and on a mission to win the NEC title and get the school’s first ever NCAA basketball bid.

Esidore stated, “We need to be consistent, and take the rest of the season one game at a time. We also need to stay focused on preparing to win and we need to keep improving in order to achieve our goal of winning the NEC championship.”

Fortunately, the Bobcats do not leave the state of Connecticut for their next four games. They play Mount St. Mary’s on Mon., Feb. 10 in Hamden, Wagner College on Sat. Feb. 15 in Hamden, Sacred Heart on Mon., Feb. 17, in a key cross-state rival matchup in Fairfield at the Pitt Center, and St. Francis (NY) on Thu., Feb. 20 in Hamden, which will be televised on Cablevision.