Quinnipiac Women Scorching Northeast Conference
By Zach Smart
After a second-rate 2006-2007 campaign which culminated in a frustrating first round flame-out, the Quinnipiac women’s basketball team has officially bounced back on the map.
The Bobcats have ripped off a six-game win streak—all against Northeast Conference foes—to seize sole possession of first place in the conference.
Quinnipiac (15-2, 7-0 NEC) has registered the best record in program history and apparently regained the confidence it displayed two seasons ago, when a callow crew took the world by storm, advancing all the way to the conference championship game.
But Coach Tricia Sacca-Fabbri and company are looking beyond that this year, as the Bobcats have all the tools necessary to emerge into a lock for the NCAA tournament.
Where does the success start with this ostensibly untouchable Bobcat team?
Check the backcourt.
Junior point guard Erin Kerner has once again surfaced as a player of the year candidate, after a program and fan base was collectively foiled following her season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament last season.
Kerner, who’s averaging a team-high 16 points to go with 3.8 dimes per game, has been the straw that stirs a well-balanced offensive drink.
The junior from Erie, Pa. etched her name in the record books during a dizzying, 62-60 win over Long Island on January 19. Kerner blitzed the Blackbirds to the tune of 25 points and surpassed the 1,000-point benchmark in the process.
Kerner is just the sixth player to hit for the century mark since Quinnipiac was elevated to the Division-I ranks.
Whether it’s burying pull-up and mid-range jump shots, dialing in from downtown, freezing opponents with a killer crossover or simply burning them with quick, strong slashes to the bucket, Kerner has been a problem this season.
Classmate Brianna Rooney has also been efficient, applying the tight defensive pressure needed to throw prolific scorers out of their groove. Rooney, who has also sprung back from her share of injuries, recently established herself as Quinnipiac’s all-time steals leader with 159. Heading into Saturday’s game at Sacred Heart, the onus will be on Rooney, a Guilford-bred combo guard, to keep guards Alisa Apo and Stephanie Ryan—a transfer via Fairfield— in check.
While her birth certificate reads “Brianna,” anyone who knows Rooney calls her “Breezy.” Fitting, because Rooney breezed through the jump to the Division-I level, garnering multiple NEC Rookie of the Week accolades her freshman season.
The impact Sacca-Fabbri’s 2005 recruiting class has made, however, transcends Rooney and Kerner—who in not even two full seasons has skyrocketed to small-school stardom.
Three-point sniper Mandy Pennewell and guard/forward Kathleen Neyens (whose back from a one-year hiatus due to a leg injury) have both panned out since helping the Bobcats conclude that magical 2005-2006 ride with a 22-8 record (15-3 NEC), four points of qualifying for their first-ever NCAA tournament.
But the Bobcats wouldn’t stand at 7-0 without one of the conference’s toughest forwards in Monique Lee. For four years Lee has made her presence felt in the frontcourt, patrolling the paint and finding ways to score. A tournament-bid would be nothing short of a storybook ending for the senior from Lynn, Mass. Nicole Duperron and Courtney Kaminksi provide stability in this solid frontcourt.
The Bobcats endured a myriad of daunting challenges this season, scoring wins over first-class programs such as San Diego State. When Kerner was sidelined with a one-game injury, the Bobcats took the Big East’s Seton Hall into overtime. Thus, a heartbreaking 69-64 loss could have actually been a signature victory.
Not to worry.
Kerner will be back in full throttle Saturday.
These could be uncharted waters for the Bobcats, with Saturday’s game at no.2-Sacred Heart serving as a major barometer.