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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

‘We don’t give up’: Women’s basketball fighting through non-conference play

Tripp Menhall
(From left to right) Freshman guard Paige Girardi, sophomore forward Ella O’Donnell, freshman center Anna Foley, freshman guard Karson Martin and junior guard Jackie Grisdale all celebrate after Maine calls a timeout on November 6, 2023.

The 2023-24 Quinnipiac women’s basketball team has been an enigma so far.

On one hand, the Bobcats convincingly beat Maine on opening night — which sits at 5-4 and only lost by eight to No. 16-ranked Indiana — and won a thriller in Kingston, Rhode Island, over URI, who beat then No. 25 Princeton three days later.

But on the other hand, this team got walloped by Harvard, lost a winnable game against Vermont and got swept by Navy and Towson in the Navy Classic.

If you came here looking for a prediction on the Bobcats’ future, you’re in the wrong spot. I have no clue how this team will do once conference play starts or how far they’ll go in the MAAC Tournament.

I can, however, tell you a couple things based on their recent performances.

First of all, Quinnipiac fights no matter what the scenario is. Nothing exemplifies that more than its two-point win over the Rhode Island Rams on Nov. 30.

“We are fighters,” junior guard Jackie Grisdale said after the win. “We don’t give up.”

Lose all of your bigs to foul trouble and have to play five guards against Rhode Island’s 6-foot-2-inch senior forward Mayé Touré? No problem. Sophomore guard Bri Bowen will clutch the game out with a buzzer beater to get the Bobcats the win.

Play a non-conference schedule comprised of four conference champions or co-champions with a roster that’s half newcomers? Bring it on.

Secondly, the Bobcats have improved since the Nov. 6 contest against Maine, despite what their 2-4 record may indicate. Head coach Tricia Fabbri and the rest of the Quinnipiac staff have observed the improvements first-hand.

“People were checking in, like, ‘How are you doing?’” Fabbri said on Nov. 30. “We’re great as a staff, we see improvement coming. We see the trees for the forest and the forest for the trees.”

Even following the 85-41 clobbering at the hands of the Harvard Crimson, the Bobcats improved. They held their own in the 58- 53 loss to a tough Vermont squad that brought back two America East first-teamers: graduate student guard Emma Utterback and senior forward Anna Olson.

But in that same game where Quinnipiac improved in a more general sense, there was still a whole lot to work on.

The Bobcats had trouble from beyond the arc and at the free-throw line, shooting a measly 20% and 30%, respectively. They also struggled defensively, having trouble communicating and adjusting to Utterback.

“Communication is a two-way street,” Grisdale said following the Nov. 17 loss to Vermont. “That’s going to help us a lot on defense with getting through screens.”

With all of its improvements the Bobcats still need to make, I’d be remiss not to mention that they have a really solid core to build upon and have a lot of positives going for them.

It all starts and ends with their rock of consistency: Grisdale.

Throughout the first six games, the Poland, Ohio, native is averaging 15.5 points per game, 2.5 rebounds per game and 1.3 assists per game. Those are numbers that could land you on the All- MAAC First Team if you keep them up throughout the season. Besides the Harvard game, freshman forward Anna Foley has notched double digits in each of Quinnipiac’s first six games — averaging 12.7 on the season.

Sophomore forward Ella O’Donnell achieved her career high in points (22) on Nov. 25 against Navy, and will be valuable when paired with Foley in the front court.

Around them are freshmen guards Paige Girardi, Karson Martin, Kassidy Thompson and Maria Kealy, junior guard Reiven Douglas, junior forward Grace LaBarge and Bowen.

Girardi played all 40 minutes in this past Thursday’s contest against URI, facing consistent pressure bringing the ball upcourt from the Rams’ guards. Her and Douglas handled it well, despite first-quarter turbulence in that department from the Bobcats.

“(Girardi) has been so good, but tonight she was exceptional,” Fabbri said. “That was an exceptional game.”

Despite Martin being out with an elbow injury (she’s considered game-to-game), she is arguably one of the most important parts of the Bobcats’ offense. Her presence adds an energy and quickness that’s hard to replicate, especially on transition. Her speed brings out the best in her teammates too; Foley is able to quarterback the offense and pass the rock easier.

LaBarge struggled to start the season, shooting 27% from the field, and was benched against URI in favor of Kealy, but I view a lot of her issues as getting used to the team. She has had trouble with her defensive positioning and being in the right spots, but as she plays more and communicate more, that will decrease.

The next few games will be challenging for Quinnipiac.

The Bobcats have arguably their biggest challenge of the season, as they face Princeton on Wednesday night at 7 p.m, who was previously ranked at No. 25.

From there, Quinnipiac hosts Patriot League champion Holy Cross on Dec. 10, will have a rendezvous with Rider for its first MAAC game on Dec. 18, a Battle of Whitney Avenue at Yale on Dec. 30 and then will dive straight into conference play.

But going forward, one thing is certain for the Bobcats: they will stick to their process. They will crawl, walk, jog, run and then sprint. Following Rhode Island, Fabbri knows where Quinnipiac is and where it will continue to build heading into conference play — they’re out of the crawl and maybe walking.

“We got up on two (feet) tonight,” Fabbri said

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Tripp Menhall
Tripp Menhall, Creative Director

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