Last season, the Quinnipiac women’s basketball team played its best season in program history, going undefeated in conference play, 30-3 overall and eventually losing to Maryland in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
“We’ve been able to string two really good years in a row, but a championship year is fantastic,” Quinnipiac head coach Tricia Fabbri said of last year’s success.
While the team’s success last year is still fresh in the players’ minds, they aren’t living in the past.
“What we did last year was amazing,” junior guard Jasmine Martin said. “But this year, going forward, we just have to know it’s a new year.”
In hopes of improving on last season, the Bobcats started out on the right foot with their win against North Carolina A&T, defeating the Aggies 77-63.
“Obviously it will be hard to exceed 30-3, but that’s definitely the goal,” junior point guard Gillian “Boo” Abshire said. “Right now we’re working harder than ever as if we never did what we did last season.”
The team led the entire game with Martin shooting a perfect 7 of 7 from the field. Her 3-point shot was locked on, hitting all five of her shots. Her only miss was a free throw, shooting 3 of 4 from the stripe.
A key concern for the team is the unfamiliarity of its opponents. Fabbri feels, with a complete lack of experience with the teams of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the “learning curve” on how to defeat new opponents is immense.
“We’re playing new teams; everyone is unfamiliar,” Martin added. “We just have to make sure we’re looking to scout a couple extra times to be familiar with the teams we are playing against.”
Despite the learning curve, the upperclassmen have much experience, especially coming off such a historic season. Such an advantage will help Quinnipiac pull out out the close games, Fabbri noted. She feels this experience begins with Abshire. As most leaders tend to do, Fabbri noted she leads her team by example.
“She has the ball in her hand the majority of the game,” Fabbri said. “She’s the one who is making all the plays and she is really comfortable with that. The fact that she has been so good at that position is why we have a lot of success.”
This experience will ultimately hold Abshire responsible for the team’s largest statistical concern, turnovers. Fabbri feels when the team wins the turnover battle, they win the games.
“I know the turnover margin is really important to us to have the least amount of turnovers as possible,” Abshire said. “I know a lot of that relies on me.”
On the court, Abshire will be the head of the team’s game plan to push the tempo and control the pace. The system the team has in place, coined the “gold rush” by Fabbri, is comparable to hockey lines as she swaps out five players at a time to keep legs fresh.
“It was something that we experimented with and were able to capitalize on,” Fabbri said. “Not most programs in the country tend to do that.”
What helps this style of play is the chemistry between the players off the court. As Martin noted, the team wants new players to feel that they are being welcomed into a family and conduct the team in the same manner.
“We’re really close,” Martin said. “Every year we just get closer and closer. The girls that come here just fit right in. It’s like they were meant to come here.”
Noticing the teams success and chemistry, the school awarded Fabbri a contract extension prior to the beginning of the season. Now in her 19th season as head coach, she acknowledges the environment she has created is the most appealing aspect of her team.
“Anytime you can really create an environment that is stable, that people feel really comfortable with their decision, first and foremost truly affects our ability to go out and recruit the top athletes,” Fabbri said.
All this taken into consideration, the Bobcats believe they have a great chance to mirror last season’s performance, if not outdo themselves.
“It could really be another historic year,” Martin said. “We just have to take it one game at a time.”