Rams Tradition Begins Now!
Fordham’s First Post-Season Victory Since 1980
By Howard Goldin
BRONX, NEW YORK, March 23- The slogan “Tradition begins now” adopted by the women’s basketball program at Fordham University at the start of this season has proven to be quite prophetic. The Rams, after 16 consecutive losing seasons, have compiled the second highest total of victories in the history of the program.
Its list of successes this year is unique since the university joined the Atlantic-10 conference in 1995. Veteran coach Stephanie Gaitley, in only her second year at the helm of the team, has created a culture of success under a leadership of decency that hopefully will set a tone that will be followed in the future.
Its season of achievement has led the Rams to be invited to a post-season tournament for the first time since 1995. One day after being denied an automatic entrance to the NCAA Women’s National Tournament by a one point loss, 47-46, to St. Joseph’s in the final of the Atlantic-10 Championship, the Rams were one of 64 invitees to the WNIT.
In the first round on Thursday night, March 20, the Rams hosted Army (22-7) at the Rose Hill Gym on Fordham’s Bronx campus. The Black Knights received an automatic berth as they were the regular season champions of the Patriot League.
Both teams started the slowly and missed most shot, perhaps because of nerves or effective defense. The two were highly ranked this season nationally for their scoring defense; Army ranked 7th in the nation and Fordham ranked 16th as the stingiest in surrendering points.
The Black Knights were the first to reach double digits as a three by Jen Hazlett gave them an 11-6 advantage at 13:09. A basket by sensational freshman Kelsey Minato raised Army’s lead to a game high six, 15-9. The Rams then awoke and scored 15 unanswered points to take their game high advantage, 24-15 with 2:34 left in the first half.
On a 9-2 scoring run, Army knotted the score at 26 with 15:40 remaining in the contest. After a third tie at 28, the Rams led through the remainder of the second half. The action was intense and physical as each team made a supreme effort to gain the victory. Fordham treated its fans to a joyous experience by earning a 55-46 victory.
The Fordham starters, with the exception of freshman Samantha Clarke who sat out much of the game, contributed mightily to the win. Abigail Corning achieved a double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds. Graduating players Marah Strickland (15) and Arielle Collins (14) netted double digits. Erin Rooney fell short of double figures but led with six assists and showed her defensive capabilities with four steals. Gaitley said of Rooney’s contribution, “With Erin, there was a lot of residue from Saturday’s game. It’s a testament to her.”
Minato, Patriot League Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year, played outstandingly with 13 points, 11 rebounds and 4 steals. Her backcourt mate, Anna Simmers, played equally well, 15 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists. Gaitley explained the importance of the twosome, “We’re a really disciplined team. The key to the game was to make things tough for 5 [Minato] and 25 [Simmers].”
With its win, Fordham moved to round two of the tournament. The Rams will play host to Boston University (24-5), the victor of Sacred Heart in round one on Saturday afternoon, March 22 in the Bronx.
Gaitley had high hopes for her team, “I think we’re going to be much better on Saturday. We needed to get this game out of our system.”