Women’s Basketball Finishes Incredible Season


Forward Samantha Clark, FCRH ’16, stepped up in a big way, helping the team to a 22-win season. (Courtesy of Fordham Sports)


The women’s basketball team secured their best record since the 1978-1979 season, going 12-2 in the Atlantic 10 (A10) Conference, by beating the Temple University Owls and securing their 22nd win this season. The team hasn’t lost since Feb. 10, winning six straight games to end the year. Their 22 wins are good for third place in the conference and a first-round bye in the A10 Championship.

Forward Samantha Clark, FCRH ’16, stepped up in a big way, helping the team to a 22-win season. (Courtesy of Fordham Sports)
Forward Samantha Clark, FCRH ’16, stepped up in a big way, helping the team to a 22-win season. (Courtesy of Fordham Sports)

Fordham’s most recent victory came by a score of 58-44. It was the fifth time this season that they held a conference opponent under 45 points as their stifling defense has become the team’s greatest strength. The win was a team effort, as four Rams managed double-digit points, led by guard Erin Rooney, Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH) ’14, who tallied 15 points. In addition to pacing the team’s offense, Rooney managed to break 1,000 points in her collegiate career with the win, bringing her total to 1,004.

For Coach Stephanie Gaitley, the team’s remarkable performance this season has clear root causes. “I just think that, for us, we had to really develop our chemistry,” Gaitley said. “We were 7-5 at one point this season, matching where we were at the same point last year, and we couldn’t quite understand why. The two most important things this year have been our leadership and our chemistry. I think between our junior and senior class, some of the transfers, and bringing in new talent, we felt that it could be something special, and it really has been.”

Though no one player makes a team, the Rams have had some clearly phenomenal performances come from their youngest playmaker. Forward Samantha Clark, FCRH ’16, has been named the A10 Rookie of the Week a school-record five times and her coach’s praise reflected that.

“I think Sam’s contributions have been instrumental,” Gaitley said. “For one, we’ve had so many injuries. We’ve had three forwards out almost a majority of the season, so Sam played a lot of minutes. I think most freshmen have a rollercoaster kind of year, but I think Sam’s had a Rookie of the Year-type year.”

With the outstanding regular season in the books, the team’s focus now turns to the looming A10 Championships and their prize of a first-round bye. When asked about the importance of that particular advantage, Gaitley praised her team’s focus. “When the bye became a realistic option, we fixed our eye on the prize. It became tangible for us once we beat St. Joe’s. At that point, the difference between us and the bye was a win over Temple, which we went out and got.”

The top-three finish greatly exceeded expectations for a team that fellow coaches predicted would end up eleventh in the A10. As good as the team’s season has been, there remains some stiff competition in the conference. A10-rival Dayton managed the top spot in the regular season, finishing undefeated and ranked #18 nationally. There’s also Duquesne, a team that beat the Rams earlier this year by a margin of 18 points. But neither opponent, no matter how formidable, has Fordham’s coach too worried.

“I really think it’s a pretty wide-open race,” Gaitley said. “I think we’re one of the teams that can win it all. I was certainly upset when we were picked to finish eleventh, you know, I thought the lowest we would be was sixth. I guess a lot of people didn’t understand the ability of the people we had coming in. I think it’s really anybody’s championship. Dayton is a good team, but they are young and I think they are vulnerable.”

The looming presence of a nationally ranked team might seem daunting to a hopeful Fordham fan, but the team is taking things one game at a time, no matter the opponent. “Either way, we’re excited about the matchup,” Gaitley said. “We’ll be playing the winner of the Butler/St. Louis game [in the first round]. Butler is a team we haven’t faced, which would be interesting because we haven’t faced them, but St. Louis is a team we beat there without our leading scorer. You have to beat a lot of good teams to get to the championship anyway, so it’s just really on us to be playing the best basketball possible.”