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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Long wait is over for Quinnipiac

Just 101 seconds remained but the coronation was well underway inside the TD Bank Sports Center on Sunday.

The Quinnipiac women's basketball program, which had fallen short so many times in recent years in the quest to secure the first NCAA Division I tournament berth in school history. But with the Bobcats up 37 points, veteran Quinnipiac coach Tricia Fabbri knew it was time for seniors Felicia Barron and Lisa Lebak to get the appropriate sendoff in their final home game.

Tears were flowing, hugs were exchanged as Barron and Lebak checked out of the Northeast Conference tournament championship game.

"Those last few seconds when the clock ran down, there are so many emotions that going through us and in the four years we have really progressed as a team and this is such a great feeling to see all  our hard work finally pay off in this last game," Lebak said. "I couldn't be more proud of my teammates, it was amazing."

While Lebak waited four years for this moment, it took Barron five years to finally punch a ticket to March Madness as a knee injury led to her redshirting for a season.

'We wanted to get exciting with about 11 minutes to go but we held our composure," Barron said. "We were thinking ahead of 'they could come back' but we just stayed level-headed and came out with that victory and it is a great feeling."

Quinnipiac was the preseason pick to win the NEC and made the experts look good by rolling to a perfect run through the conference season. In the title game Quinnipiac set NEC records for largest margin of victory and fewest points allowed in their final NEC game before heading to the MAAC.

The fact that the Quinnipiac veterans had to deal with heartbreak in previous NEC tournaments made this all the more precious to Fabbri.

"It's so sweet because they have been so dominant as freshmen and sophomores, they won over 50 games in two years  and what makes it so special is they all care about everybody else and making sure everybody else feels good about what they are doing, where their role is and how they all pull together," Fabbri said. "I have never seen a group of young ladies, as I reflect, I have never witnessed and I have done this my entire life playing on a team and coaching basketball I have never witnessed a group of selfless young ladies that want to win and are focused on one goal and one goal only. For us to go 30-2 and not for one night to have a hiccup is just  how focused they are and how they grew as a team . They cared about each other and were motivated to win basketball games and it is absolutely is amazing to watch how they care about each other and that is what made this season so sweet is that they were 30-2 is how they were all important to wins on and off the court, being there for one another and caring about each other. To me it was a true team victory. This team epitomizes what a team should be and I was lucky to be able to coach it."

Tonight the reality of it will hit home when the see their name flashed on the NCAA bracket which will be announced on ESPN from 7-8 p.m.

"It is going to be incredibly exciting to find out who our next opponent is," said Fabbri, who played in a pair of NCAA tournaments as a player at Fairfield University . "We are excited to go out and represent not only Quinnipiac but the Northeast Conference very well and we are going to be very excited to find out where we are going and who we are going to play. One thing I do know is they compete. You see that in their defensive effort, you put a clock, a time and a score up and they compete because in practice if we aren't doing it, we are kind of just shuffling around. For me, this is fantastic but for me personally, watching Quinnipiac go up on the screen in the field of 64 is just my dream come true so I can't wait to have that happen tomorrow night."

The feeling is that Quinnipiac's strong season which included a win over St. John's and no losses to teams with RPIs out of the top 100 could result in the Bobcats being either a No. 12 or 13 seed and being sent to the Delaware or Maryland subregionals.

"You dream of that as a little girl growing up," Lebak said. "It is the only thing you want is to see you and your school's name in lights on the big screen and to know that we finally accomplished that, it is the best feeling ever that you accomplished the goal that you set."

It will give this group of players a chance to put Quinnipiac women's basketball on the map, if they haven't already done so.

"We want to protect the spot that we have gotten and try to win as many games as we can," Quinnipiac sophomore guard Jasmine Martin said. "We want to go as far as we can in this tournament. People are talking about Quinnipiac and usually when (she says) 'I go to Quinnipiac' people are like 'what?' so I think people are going to be realizing who we are now and it is exciting."


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