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Quinnipiac’s journey to join elite company culminates in Miami

Photo courtesy Quinnipiac Athletics

By: Morey Hershgordon

Some saw it coming. But for those who didn’t, now they have.

The No. 12 seed Quinnipiac women’s basketball team’s 68-65 upset win against No. 5 Marquette Saturday in the NCAA Tournament was sealed when a potential game-tying 3-pointer rattled out as time expired. The opening round win is the program’s first in the big dance.

Rewind almost two weeks. Once her team won the MAAC Tournament on March 6, Adily Martucci promised that her team would win an NCAA Tournament game.

“I’m not ending my career without a win in the NCAA Tournament.”

But how did Quinnipiac make sure of that? Make sure it was going to open eyes around the country and defy the odds?

Scheduling and expectations.

This season alone, Quinnipiac’s daunting out-of-conference slate primed it for the upset.

The Bobcats faced seven NCAA Tournament teams, going 4-3 against Oregon State, Temple, Michigan State, Florida Gulf Coast, Dayton, Long Beach State, and New Mexico State, beating the last four which all won their respective conference championships.

First was Florida Gulf Coast who took No. 4 Miami (Fl.) down to the wire on Saturday before a game-winning layup in the final seconds. Next, it was Dayton on the road. Quinnipiac erased a 17-point, second half-deficit in a hostile environment to beat a program just a few years removed from an Elite 8 appearance. Then, it was a tournament in Las Vegas that saw Quinnipiac pick up two neutral court wins against LBSU and NMSU who gave No. 2 seeds Oregon State and Stanford all it could handle.

Tricia Fabbri knew it would pay off.

“Seeing all those different style of teams in three days has completely prepared us for the season that we had and the weekend that we’re having,” the head coach said.

It’s no secret her team has been a rising mid-major power for over half a decade. Just look at the numbers. Six straight national postseason tournaments including three in the NCAA Tournament, 25 wins or more in four of those seasons, and a combined 157-45 record in that span.

To top it off, Fabbri knew history was bound to happen on Saturday.

“To be honest with you, our shoot around this morning was the best it’s ever been,” she admitted in the press conference after upsetting the reigning Big East champions. “The laser focus. The ready to go. I texted (Athletic Director Greg Amodio) and said ‘We’re going to be hard to beat today.’ That’s on the record.”

Saturday’s historic win was a culmination of years of hard work trail blazed by former Bobcat stars, most recently Erin Kerner (2009), Courtney Kaminski (2011), Felicia Baron (2013), Brittany McQuain (2014), Jasmine Martin (2015) and Gillian “Boo” Abshire (2015).

“Every single one of those young ladies, it’s been a privilege to coach.”

“Every lady that’s down here with me and for 22 years that I have coached has been a part of this experience and has helped us achieve what we have achieved this weekend,” Fabbri said as her team prepares to face No. 4 Miami (Fl.).

After an interview on ESPN following the upset, Fabbri shared a special moment with Quinnipiac President John L. Lahey. In thirty years, he’s has taken a small, Division II private school, tucked away in the depths of the Sleeping Giant mountain, with less than 2,000 students and has transformed it into a budding Division I mid-major power with a state-of-the-art athletic arena and three separate campuses.

Thirty years, for him, flashed in front of his eyes.

“He had always hoped, just like us in making this a reality,” Fabbri said. “He’s been the biggest advocate of our university being at its best. What his vision was for this university, the building of York Hill and the arena, (and) Quinnipiac being on the national stage.”

“We’ve talked about this, our plan. Sharing that moment with the President in our locker room. He was emotional and he was just joyful in sharing that moment with this team and he couldn’t have been any happier. It was awesome.”

The Bobcats win marks just the 21st time out of 94 games that a No. 12 seed has advanced past the first round.

However, they might not be done yet.

Just ask Carly, the coach’s daughter and captain of the team, if she’s satisfied with making it to the Round of 32. Her answer? Realistic, yet still goal-oriented.

“Obviously, still waking up in Miami is amazing,” the guard said Sunday morning. “But as much as it may seem ‘dream-like’ it’s a real goal that we can attain. We are enjoying the experience but also having the mentality that this is a business trip.”

“I think we have the opportunity to get to the Sweet Sixteen.”

The Quinnipiac women’s basketball team has officially joined elite company.

And it doesn’t plan on leaving anytime soon.

Fun facts about No. 12 seeds since the field expanded in 1994:

  • Only three No. 12 seeds have ever made the Sweet Sixteen (BYU- 2014, Kansas- 2013, San Francisco- 1996).
  • Not a single No. 12 seed has ever won more than two games in the tournament.
  • The three aforementioned teams to reach the Sweet Sixteen all defeated No. 5 and No. 4 seeds. Quinnipiac will have to do the same.

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