Under New Leadership, Women’s Basketball Primed for Success


ve Featuring a plethora of new faces, the women’s basketball team is ready to improunder new head coach, Stephanie Gaitley, this season. (Courtesy of Fordham University)


A new coach hopes to bring a winning atmosphere to the Fordham women’s basketball team for the upcoming 2011-2012 season.

The Rams  kicked off the year on Nov. 11 with a 59-42 loss against Albany. The loss showed that this year’s team, which is full of new faces, has a lot to learn.

Firstly, the Rams have a new coach this season, Stephanie Gaitley, who is excited to be at her new Fordham home. “I’m looking forward to coaching at Fordham and I’m very excited to change the culture,” Gaitley said.

Gaitley is here to help bring about a winning culture that Fordham has been lacking over the past few years. Gaitley is quite experienced, coaching teams at Monmouth, Long Island University, Saint Joseph’s University and the University of Richmond, notching a great 464-270 career record, including 12 20-win seasons.

The Rams are hoping for a turnaround from last season, when they went 12-19, finishing just 4-10 in the Atlantic 10 (A-10) conference. This disappointing record landed them in 10th place in the conference.

When asked how she hopes to improve the team’s psyche and maintain a winning record, Gaitley said, “By playing hard and playing smart. The kids will be working really hard to turn it around in a conference filled with veterans.”

That being said, it’s going to be a long process to help change the losing culture. The Rams have not had a winning season since 1995, and their last appearance in the NCAA tournament was in 1994. Coach Gaitley acknowledged this, and said, “I know that there will be growing pains and ups and downs, but I tell the team that it isn’t about the record. We have to focus on getting better each and every day and we should be celebrating the little successes.”

The team will look very different from last year, as they lost six lettermen, including four starters. The team has 10 newcomers. Along with eight promising freshmen, there are two upperclassmen additions. Junior Erin Rooney, Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH) ’13, is a touted transfer from Monmouth University and graduate student, Marah Strickland, who played at South Carolina. The Rams five returning players include Becky Peters, FCRH ’12, last year’s leading scorer, who is hoping to help repeat this feat.

Fresh faces may be the recipe for a winning season, with new enthusiastic team members and a coach ready to make a statement in the conference. Gaitley said the team’s motto is “passion with a purpose.”

It is important to play hard but also to play with heart. Gaitley wants her team to excel off the court as well. “Just as I want my girls to slowly play better and better each day, I also want them to do the same in the classroom,” Gaitley said. “If we can see that C turn into a B or that B turn into an A, that would accomplish one of my goals for the team.”

In order to begin winning again, the Rams have to focus on showcasing their strengths and improving their weaknesses. Gaitley focused on Fordham’s ability to shoot the ball and emphasized the team’s strong midrange shooters. “We live and die by the outside shot,” she said.

While Fordham has strong shooters, they have to improve their defense from last year. Gaitley was an expert on defense at Monmouth, allowing less than 60 points per game each year, including a Northeast Conference best 55.7 last season. She hopes to transfer this defensive mentality to Fordham because close games take good defense. “It is important to have a defensive mentality at the very beginning of each game,”  Gaitley said. “When games are close, details come into play, and there is no excuse for not playing defense. More close games could have been won last year by staying focused and playing good defense.” With heart and smart playing, Fordham can begin the steady climb back towards the top of their division.

Realistically, time, practice and patience will slowly change the culture surrounding the Rams. It will not happen overnight, but the team is determined to improve upon last season’s record. Fordham women’s basketball team has an exciting season ahead, with a winning coach, returning stars, and promising freshmen.