Women’s Basketball Wins First-Round Game Against St. Joe’s

This article originally appeared in The Fordham Ram in March 2020.

Fordham Women’s Basketball entered the Atlantic 10 Tournament on a quest to win its second-straight conference title. So far, that journey is off to an excellent start.

Fordham defeated Saint Joseph’s University 59-36 on Tuesday night in front of a lively crowd at the Rose Hill Gym. The Rams had a particularly noteworthy performance on the defensive end, holding St. Joe’s to fewer points than it allowed from any other opponent this season.

The win over St. Joe’s was the second-such victory in four days, as Fordham ended its regular season with a home rout of the Hawks 67-45 on Saturday. The win clinches a spot for the Rams in the A-10 quarterfinals and a matchup with Duquesne University on Friday night at University of Dayton Arena.

“I thought (freshman) Sarah (Karpell) did another great job defensively and of course, (junior) Bre (Cavanaugh) stepped up offensively, but you could look at a lot of different people who stepped up and did some great things,” Fordham head coach Stephanie Gaitley said.

Fordham suffocated St. Joe’s from the outset defensively. Karpell, the Rams’ foremost defensive stopper, held the Hawks’ leading scorer, sophomore Katie Jekot, to just eight points on 2-13 shooting from the field. Cavanaugh, despite a barrage of double teams and all of St. Joe’s’ defensive attention, still got her offense, scoring 22 points on 8-17 shooting in her closing argument to be named A-10 Player of the Year.

Junior Kendell Heremaia also chipped in 15 points, and Gaitley was impressed with her effort on both ends.
“I challenged Kendell in practice yesterday and she responded really well. To me, she’s our missing link; when she plays well, I think we’re a different team, so I was really proud of her.”

Fordham led the game 13-7 after the first quarter and caught fire offensively at the end of the first half, taking a 10-point lead into the locker room and maintaining a 18-4 run from the end of the first half to the beginning of the second.

In the third quarter, the Rams blitzed St. Joe’s with hot shooting, as Fordham shot 8-16 and outscored St. Joe’s by 13 points to make the game a blowout heading into the fourth. Despite struggling early on, Fordham was able to defend well all night en route to a blowout victory.

With the win, Fordham will face sixth-seeded Duquesne in the A-10 quarterfinal on Friday. Fordham lost 74-63 to Duquesne last Tuesday in what was by most measures Fordham’s worst defensive performance of the season.

“I think the only blip on our radar was Duquesne defensively,” Gaitley said. “We have a great shot of getting them back.” Shortly after this quote, Gaitley learned that her team would be facing Duquesne, and Fordham knocked out Duquesne with a dominant 76-34 win in the semifinals of last year’s A-10 Tournament in Pittsburgh.

Fordham will need all hands on deck to win another Atlantic 10 crown. Teams like Duquesne, Virginia Commonwealth University and Dayton will be difficult to take down this time around, and Fordham will enter Ohio with a target on their back as the defending conference champions. Still, the team is feeling good as it tries to win thrice in three days to return to the NCAA Tournament.

Looking ahead to Fordham’s road through the conference, it will be difficult. Starting on Friday night, Duquesne boasts multiple double-digit scorers in juniors Libby Bazelak and Laia Sole, both of whom went for at least 20 points when Duquesne toppled Fordham last Tuesday.

If the Rams win, they’ll face either Davidson College or VCU, both of whom beat the Rams once in the regular season. Davidson would have beaten Fordham twice had it not been for Cavanaugh’s last-second buzzer-beater to win the game for Fordham on Feb. 13.

After that, if Fordham reaches the final, its likeliest opponents are Saint Louis University or Dayton. Fordham played both teams twice in the regular season and split the meetings.

The toughest test for Fordham may be simply playing away from home. Fordham is currently 20-10 on the season and 14-2 at the Rose Hill Gym. Everywhere else, the Rams have a record of just 6-8. That being said, Fordham enters this tournament confident that they can make their way through the conference, and that task starts at 7 p.m. on Friday night at UD Arena.

“I think they’re in a great place right now,” Gaitley said. “I think we realize that one of our worst efforts was against Duquesne. They’re a very good team, don’t get me wrong, but I just don’t think we played our best basketball so we’re looking forward to getting that chance again.”

Squash Crowned 2020 Chaffee Cup Champions

This article originally appeared in The Fordham Ram in March 2020.

Fordham Squash entered this season trying to win its second straight Chaffee Cup title at the CSA (College Squash Association) Team Championships. The Rams did so last season for the first time in recent memory, and despite some early hurdles, this year’s team looked primed to accomplish the same feat.

This past weekend, the Rams did just that.

Fordham claimed back-to-back Chaffee Cups as the Rams defeated Washington University (Missouri), New York University and Hobart College in Boston, Massachusetts. The first match against Washington was the easiest of the weekend. Senior William Douglass won his opening match over Washington’s Russell Scharf in four sets; elsewhere, all but one Fordham individual match was decided in straight sets and Fordham moved on to the semifinals.

The team’s next match against NYU on Saturday was slightly more difficult but never quite in doubt.

Douglass and Patrick Rodden won the opening two matches of the day over Hamaad Jefry and Tyler Kang, respectively. Things got a little more interesting in the third match, as the Violets’ Liam Pope took down Fordham junior Tommy White in an exciting five-set match to get NYU back in it for the time being. The match turned in the next individual contest, as Fordham junior Griffin Fitzgerald was pushed to the wall by NYU’s Andre Megliola. Megliola took a two sets to one lead on Fitzgerald entering the fourth set, but Fitzgerald, who finished the year with a 20-8 record, buckled down and won the next two difficult sets, 11-9 and 11-8, respectively. The teams split the next two matches, and Fordham junior Justin Deckoff clinched the victory — and an appearance in the final for Fordham — with his win over Gene Chung.

With Saturday’s victory, Fordham stood just one win away from another Chaffee Cup title. The only team standing in the way was Hobart College, and nothing came easy for Fordham in its attempt to win another championship.

The Rams started in a hole at the outset of the match. Douglass, Rodden and White all lost their matches, and after three matches, Hobart was just two victories away from swiping the Chaffee Cup away from Fordham. But Fordham turned the match around behind Fitzgerald, who once again went the distance against James Mazzarelli. In the deciding fifth set, Fitzgerald came out on top in a dominant 11-0 performance. Senior Bruce Czachor and sophomore Jack Reed won their next two matches to tie it at three apiece. Fordham needed to win two of the next three matches to win the trophy, but Hobart’s Quran Davis won the next match to complicate things further for the Rams.

As Fordham did all season, the team had a response.

Sophomore Dylan Panichello forced a winner-take-all ninth match with his victory over Charlie Beall of Hobart in straight sets. With the Rams’ season on the line, it came down to freshman Jacob Bennett, and he delivered with a straight-sets victory to give Fordham its second straight Chaffee Cup win.

What is next for Fordham is unclear. What is clear is this: the last two Fordham Squash seasons have been historic, and the likes of them may not be repeated again for a long, long time.

Senior Found Her Place in WFUV

This article originally appeared in The Fordham Ram in March 2020.

Brianna Leverty, FCRH ’20, arrived at Fordham in 2016 after falling in love with the campus during a visit in high school.

“Someone recommended that I take a look at Fordham, and when I visited, I loved how it was such a perfect blend of a traditional college campus but still in a city,” Leverty said. “New York was already one of my favorite places, so Fordham quickly became my top choice to go to school.”

Leverty grew up in Severna Park, Maryland, roughly 15 minutes outside of Annapolis. After taking her freshman year to find her way at Fordham, she looked to get more involved, joining WFUV’s sports department and looking at other clubs as well. That experience has been overwhelming for Leverty, as she just completed a season covering the New York Giants and, most notably, covered last month’s Super Bowl between the 49ers and the Chiefs.

“The entire time I was in Miami, I felt like I needed to keep pinching myself, and it was definitely one of the best weeks of my life,” Leverty says. “My favorite part of the experience was being able to walk on the field after the game ended and the teams cleared out.”

Leverty and five of her classmates spent a portion of the week in Miami, taking part in the Super Bowl’s traditional “radio row” festivities in the days leading up to the game. There, she and her classmates interviewed over 30 guests, including broadcaster Kevin Harlan, former Fordham running back and current Arizona Cardinal Chase Edmonds, Jets defensive lineman Quinnen Williams and former mixed martial arts fighter Chael Sonnen, among others. Additionally, she was one of two beat reporters who got to watch the game in person as part of the credentialed media in Miami.

“You always see the game and celebrations afterwards on TV, but having the opportunity to be part of it is something I’ll never forget,” she says.

Leverty’s Super Bowl coverage comes at the tail end of a college career that has included covering the Giants and Rangers professionally, in addition to Fordham’s teams. Even though she started a year later than some of her counterparts, she has made her way to the front of the line thanks to hard work and dedication. She realizes that it takes time to find your place at college, and she advises younger students not to worry about hitting their stride right away.

“You’ll find your place at school, and when you do, you should vigorously pursue it,” Leverty says. “You never know where it could lead you, both personally and professionally.”

Now, Leverty’s vigorous pursuit has led her to personal and professional opportunities most students could only dream of. She wrapped up an internship with “The Dr. Oz Show” last semester and is now interning at MSNBC for the spring semester. She said she doesn’t quite know what she will do after graduation, but she will have plenty of options after what she has accomplished over the past four years.

“I’ve been able to accomplish so many goals professionally that I never could have even imagined going into school as a freshman in 2016,” she says.

In her final game as WFUV’s Giants beat reporter this past season, she got to ask now-fired Giants coach Pat Shurmur a question. Towards the end of his postgame presser after yet another frustrating loss to the Eagles, she plainly asked Shurmur if he had left the Giants in a better place than he found them the year before. It was a nearly perfect question, not just for the non-judgmental tone Leverty used in asking it but also the fact that Shurmur so clearly had not, with just eight wins to his name in two seasons.

The question led Shurmur to mind-numbingly proclaim that he had. Leverty, on the other hand, can honestly say the same about Fordham: she left it in a better place than she found it.

Baseball Hits Stride with Sweep of Furman

This article originally appeared in The Fordham Ram in March 2020.

The weather is getting warmer, and spring is in the air. Major League Baseball’s regular season kicks off at the end of the month, and winter is almost officially over.

With all of this being said, college baseball has been off the ground for a couple of weeks, and after a few tough games to start the year, Fordham Baseball’s season is getting closer to full bloom.

The Rams are winners of their last four games, including a three-game weekend sweep over Furman University. Fordham outscored Furman 24-7 over three games in Greenville, South Carolina.

The series started on Friday night, as Fordham sent junior left-hander Matt Mikulski to the hill. Mikulski was excellent all night, allowing just one run in 7.1 innings, which accounted for the second-longest start of his Fordham career and the longest start by a Fordham pitcher this season.

The Rams’ offense was able to get him just enough run support all day, as senior outfielder Alvin Melendez’s single gave Fordham a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning, and sophomore outfielder Jason Coules’ sacrifice fly put Fordham up 2-0 in the sixth. Fordham scored three more runs in the top of the eighth on Melendez’s two-run single and a throwing error by Furman pitcher Matt Lazzaro.

Despite Mikulski’s allowance of an unearned run in the bottom of the inning, Fordham cruised to a 5-1 victory to open the series.

The Rams’ strong play and solid pitching continued through the rest of the weekend.Saturday’s game saw junior John Stankiewicz, who won Atlantic 10 Pitcher of the Year last year, take the mound for Fordham against Furman’s John M. Bertrand. For the second straight game, Fordham got another long, strong start from its starter, as Stankiewicz allowed just two runs over six innings, along with five strikeouts. Melendez continued to rake, driving in two runs with a hit in the fourth inning.

After Furman tied it in the bottom of the fifth, Fordham sophomore catcher Andy Semo put the Rams ahead for good in the sixth with an RBI double. Coules and senior infielder C.J. Vazquez added run-scoring hits in the late innings while freshman designated hitter Zach Selinger hit his first-career home run.

Sophomore pitcher Gabe Karslo came on in the seventh inning in relief of Stankiewicz and allowed just one unearned run to preserve the Fordham victory.

As Fordham looked for the series sweep and a victory on Sunday, the Rams’ bats kept the fireworks going. Senior Nick Labella clubbed a two-run home run for his first home run of the season, giving Fordham a 2-0 lead in the top of the second.

Despite Furman’s answer in the bottom half of the inning, Fordham broke through with five runs in the next four innings with run-scoring hits from Coules, Labella and senior infielder Matt Tarabek.

Sophomore Fordham starter Cory Wall powered through five tough innings and allowed just two runs despite scattering seven hits over that time. Freshmen Garrett Crowley and Ben Kovel — along with Melendez — combined to allow one run over the final four innings to clinch the sweep for Fordham.

Fordham’s bats were incredibly impressive on the weekend, and Coules — who played a key role in Fordham’s 13-inning victory over Sacred Heart on Wednesday — was named Atlantic 10 Player of the Week after hitting .562 over the team’s four games. Fordham is now 5-6 on the season, with six straight home games coming up. Spring has sprung, and so have the Rams.

Women’s Basketball Drops Two of Three

This article originally appeared in The Fordham Ram in February 2020.

Most teams in the Atlantic 10 — at least in women’s basketball — have a legitimate chance to win the conference this year. While Dayton has been the best team this season, the Flyers have played a number of close games. In fact, seven of their 13 A-10 wins have been single-digit games. The clear-cut second fiddle in the conference has been VCU, which has 4-3 record in February. 

Then there’s the third-place team: Fordham.

The Rams have showcased this parity, for better or worse, over the past week. The team’s week started with a loss to Saint Louis on Wednesday in Missouri. That game started at 11 a.m. local time for kids day, the third such early start Fordham has endured this season. (Fordham is 1-2 in such games). The Rams held a 44-42 lead with under five minutes left, but eight points in a two-minute span by Saint Louis freshman Jadiah Stewart led the Billikens to a 59-49 victory.

Needing to respond, Fordham faced a Dayton team that had been unbeaten in A-10 play at the Rose Hill Gym on Saturday. The Rams would change that in a hurry.

Fordham knocked off Dayton for its first A-10 loss of the year and the Rams’ biggest win of the year to date. Fordham held Dayton to just 15 first-half points, which was eerily similar to the teams’ first matchup in late January, when Dayton held the Rams to just 10 first-half points. Fordham held that lead into the fourth quarter, and with the Rams up by six with six and a half minutes to play, freshman Anna DeWolfe hit a miracle two-point jumper from midair with the shot clock expiring. It was just Fordham’s day.

The 38 points Fordham allowed on Saturday were the fewest the Rams allowed in conference play. With the win, Fordham looked to continue their momentum against Duquesne on Tuesday. Entering Tuesday’s game, Duquesne was part of a cluster of eight teams who had between six and eight wins in A-10 play. 

Despite the excellent win on Saturday, Fordham’s momentum would soon come to a screeching halt.

The Rams fell to the Dukes 74-63 in Pittsburgh; the game was played at Robert Morris University as Duquesne’s regular home, the Palumbo Center, is under construction this year. Duquesne’s 74 points were tied for the most points the Rams have allowed all season, and things got progressively worse for Fordham on defense all night, as the Dukes cruised to 31 fourth-quarter points on 11-16 shooting from the field. Despite junior Bre Cavanaugh and DeWolfe combining for 42 points, Fordham’s defense, in a surprising twist, couldn’t keep the Rams in the game as Fordham fell to 10-5 in the A-10 with one game remaining.

As for the conference standings, Fordham will almost assuredly be the third seed in the A-10 Tournament, which starts next week. Because the team fell short of a top-two seed, it will have to play a game on Tuesday afternoon against either George Mason or St. Joe’s. Fordham takes on St. Joe’s at home on Saturday in the team’s final game of the year; if Fordham wins, the Rams could possibly play the Hawks once again on Tuesday. Saturday’s game tips off at 2 p.m. in Fordham’s final tune-up before the Rams attempt to defend their title next week. 

The team will look to start playing its best basketball at the right time, something it did last year but did not do against Duquesne on Tuesday.

13th-Inning Walk-Off Leads Baseball Over Sacred Heart

This article originally appeared in The Fordham Ram in February 2020.

The seasons for Fordham’s baseball and softball teams are long, and the games of February and March will not necessarily play a factor in the teams’ final outcomes. That being said, there is still ample opportunity for these teams to test their resolve and get some wins under their belt before Atlantic 10 Conference play kicks off along with warmer weather.

Wednesday’s game between Fordham’s baseball team and Sacred Heart University was the best example of this: an early-season game that was exciting and fun, albeit without the ramifications of later contests.

Fordham defeated Sacred Heart 5-4 on Wednesday thanks to a 13th-inning error by Pioneers left fielder Isiah Daubon. The ball, which was hit by sophomore outfielder Jason Coules, went in-and-out of Daubon’s glove as he tried to track it down towards the left field wall, and the miscue allowed fellow sophomore Jake Guercio to score from second base and give Fordham its second victory of the season.

The Rams fell behind early in the game, as head coach Kevin Leighton’s team needed three pitchers to get through the first six innings. Freshman pitcher Ben Kovel and senior pitcher Marc Bisogno combined to allow three runs in the first four innings, and Sacred Heart had a 3-0 lead entering the sixth inning. In the bottom of the sixth, Fordham’s bats finally got to work, as hits by senior Alvin Melendez and freshman Zach Selinger cut the Pioneers’ lead to 3-2. However, Sacred Heart added an insurance run on catcher Joey Skarad’s RBI single in the top of the eighth.

However, Fordham’s offense would not go away. In the bottom of the ninth, with Sacred Heart three outs away from a win in front of a crowd of just under 200 people — which included Sacred Heart Athletic Director and former New York Mets manager Bobby Valentine — Fordham mounted a comeback. With runners on second and third, junior Jake MacKenzie grounded a base hit to the left side to score one and make it a one-run game. With MacKenzie on first and senior C.J. Vazquez on third, MacKenzie, one of the nation’s leading base-stealers a season ago, swiped second base. With the tying and winning runs in scoring position with one out, Melendez hit a fly ball to center to bring in Vazquez to tie the game. However, the next batter, sophomore Jack Harnisch, grounded out to end the scoring in the ninth inning.

Melendez may have been the game’s most valuable player; in addition to driving in two runs, he also pitched the final five innings and only allowed two hits while striking out nine batters. Melendez’s efforts as a two-way player will once again be critical to Fordham’s success in the 2020 season. 

Fordham is now 2-6 on the season, but early returns will not dictate future results. While early-season games are important for teams to figure out their identities and proper lineups, they are less important for the purposes of wins and losses.

Still, Fordham had a rather enjoyable victory on Wednesday, and the Rams were rightfully happy to have the game fall in the win column.

Baseball Swept by FIU to Start Season

This article originally appeared in The Fordham Ram in February 2020.

Fordham Baseball is coming off of one of its best seasons ever, with an Atlantic 10 title and a trip to the NCAA Tournament serving as the highlights. The team played its best baseball toward the end of the season despite a challenging start against top-notch competition.

That is what this year’s Fordham baseball team is trying to repeat, and, so far, things are off to a difficult start.

The Rams visited Florida International University this weekend for a three-game series. In Miami, the host Panthers ran Fordham out of the building, outscoring Kevin Leighton’s team 46-9 en route to a three-game sweep.

To be fair to Fordham, the Rams are at an inherent disadvantage this time of year; teams like Florida International, which play in a warm climate, have the luxury of practicing outdoors all year round while teams like Fordham, in colder climates, do not have this working in their favor.

The series kicked off Friday night with a commanding 20-7 victory from FIU.

The Panthers led 10-1 after three innings and cruised to a victory after scoring at least once each inning. Fordham’s starter, junior pitcher Matt Mikulski, conceded eight runs in two innings of work, but just two of those runs were earned.

The defense behind Mikulski was largely responsible for an absolute mess in the second inning; Fordham committed three errors as six unearned runs came home for FIU. The game was 2-1 after Fordham junior infielder Jake MacKenzie’s home run in the top of the second, but the bottom of the inning doomed Fordham for the rest of the night.

The Rams’ fortunes did not change for the rest of the weekend.

On Saturday evening, Fordham’s bats couldn’t get going as the specter of rain hung over Infinity Insurance Park all evening. Junior and defending A-10 Pitcher of the Year John Stankiewicz kept Fordham in it, allowing two runs — one earned — over four innings of work.

However, FIU was able to get to Fordham’s bullpen as sophomore pitcher Gabe Karslo allowed two runs in the next two innings and freshman pitcher and infielder Jack Popolizio allowed four runs in the seventh inning while only managing to get one out. With the Panthers up 8-0 after seven innings, the skies opened, and the rest of the game was called off. Because it was already an official game, FIU earned a victory and moved one step closer to a season-opening sweep.

On Sunday, that became a reality. FIU jumped all over Fordham junior pitcher Joseph Quintal in the first inning, tagging him for seven runs before he left with two outs in the bottom frame. Fordham’s relief options did not fare overly well either; senior pitcher Brian Weissert gave up three runs in 3.1 innings, sophomore pitcher Cory Wall allowed four runs in two innings and sophomore pitcher Garrett Crowley did the same.

Despite the lopsided numbers and consecutive losses, Fordham can take some positives from the weekend. Senior outfielder Jake Baker went 4-8 from the plate while MacKenzie and sophomore infielder and outfielder Jason Coules each hit a home run. Stankiewicz showed signs that he can stay at the enormously high level with which he finished 2019.

Most importantly, the season has just started; Fordham has plenty of time to work out its kinks. Seasons are not decided in the first weekend of play, and Fordham should be thankful they are not. This is not time to panic for the Rams, but Fordham does have plenty to work on as out-of-conference play continues.

Next up for Fordham is its first home game of the season against Long Island University Wednesday at 2 p.m. at Houlihan Park. After their midweek contest, Fordham will take on Cal State Northridge for two games this Friday and Saturday.

Heremaia’s Career Day Leads Fordham Past Richmond

This article originally appeared in The Fordham Ram in February 2020.

At this stage of the season, teams will take wins any way they come. However, as the fight for postseason positioning reaches a crescendo, a team also wants to be playing its best basketball as the season nears its conclusion.

Fordham Women’s Basketball did that last season, and the Rams are doing the same so far in 2020.

Fordham notched its fifth straight victory on Sunday with a 64-47 win over the University of Richmond. The story of the afternoon was the play of junior forward Kendell Heremaia, who scored a career-high 29 points to go along with 10 rebounds on 12-17 shooting from the field.

“We went to mass today at 7:30 and I said, ‘Kendell, did you pray to God to stay calm and slow down?’ and she just laughed,” Fordham head coach Stephanie Gaitley joked. “That’s how good Kendell can be, and that’s why I’m on her so hard, because that’s what she’s capable of doing.”

Heremaia has emerged as one of the best players in the Atlantic 10 Conference and one of Fordham’s most important players of the season. Her performance on Sunday, which led Fordham through a competitive first half in which Richmond kept the game close, helped carry the Rams on a day in which other offensive weapons struggled from the field.

Another significant storyline for Fordham, and one that should encourage the team, has been its strong defense as of late.

Sunday’s game was the fourth out of five in which Fordham held an opponent to 50 points or fewer, and after dealing with some problems early in the season, the team has appeared to work out its issues on the defensive end.

“I think this team is based on team defense,” Gaitley said. “I think that team (last year’s A-10 championship team) had some great individual defenders. I think Sarah (Karpell) does a great job individually, but I think it’s defense by committee with this team.”

That team defense was in full force on Sunday. The Rams forced 27 turnovers on a Richmond offense that averaged over 18 turnovers per game entering the day.

Fordham ended the day with 22 more shots than Richmond, and while the teams shot the ball equally well, Fordham emerged with a blowout victory in part because they valued possession far more than their opponents.

Fordham outscored Richmond by 15 points in the second half and held the Spiders to just 31 points in the final 30 minutes of game action. Richmond led 16-15 after one quarter, but the Rams got it together after that and played one of their best defensive games of the season.

“I thought the defense was terrific,” Gaitley said. “I actually thought from the second quarter on it was good. I was disappointed in the first quarter, but I thought the second quarter was great, and from then on, I thought we did a terrific job.”

Fordham is now 9-3 in A-10 play and 17-8 on the season. The team is trying to earn a top-two seed in the A-10 Tournament in March, which would entail a first-round bye. Right now, Fordham is tied with Virginia Commonwealth University for second place, but VCU holds the tiebreaker for the second seed because they beat Fordham 62-52 on Jan. 29.

Still, Fordham is once again playing its best basketball at the perfect time. Fordham has not lost a regular-season game in February or March since 2018, and the Rams look primed for their title defense.

That being said, a tough test awaits Fordham over the next few games. The Rams travel to Saint Louis University for a 12 p.m. game on Wednesday before hosting the University of Dayton on Saturday; Dayton leads the conference with an undefeated 12-0 record. After that, Fordham will take on Duquesne University and Saint Joseph’s University to close out the season before the A-10 Tournament kicks off in the first week of March.

“Sure, Take It”: Cavanaugh’s Game-Winner Lifts Fordham Over Davidson

This article originally appeared in The Fordham Ram in February 2020.

Fordham shot the ball atrociously from downtown on Thursday night against Davidson College. The Rams missed their first 15 three-pointers of the night, the team’s most misses from downtown without a make since 1996. Fordham didn’t make a three-pointer until there were 2.1 seconds to play in the game.

Yet out of Fordham’s 16 three-point attempts, its lone make was the only one that mattered.

Fordham — somehow — defeated Davidson 47-46 on Thursday on redshirt junior Bre Cavanaugh’s corner three with just over 2.1 seconds left. It was Fordham’s only made three on the night and Cavanaugh’s first career game-winner; the frontrunner for Atlantic 10 Player of the Year finished the game with 20 points on 8-27 shooting.

“Bre came over to me and she said, ‘Coach if I’m open, can I take it?’ cause the call was to go inside to Kaitlyn (Downey),” Fordham head coach Stephanie Gaitley told WFUV. “But if Bre was open we were gonna give it to her and I’m like ‘Sure, take it.’”

Fordham struggled profoundly from the field all night, but particularly so from behind the arc. The Rams had shot just 31% from the field over the first three quarters and hadn’t made a free throw until the fourth. Davidson — who had defeated Fordham 74-62 in early January in what is, to date, Fordham’s worst defensive performance of the season — could not run away with the game, despite leading by as many as nine points early in the third quarter.

But the Rams slowly chipped away, and their trademark lockdown defense kept them in the game throughout. That being said, there was a figurative lid on the rim for Fordham all night. Even when things seemed easy, they were not. With just over two minutes left, Fordham junior Kendell Heremaia — who was mired in foul trouble all night and never got going — got a steal and led a 3-on-1 break for the Rams. She dished it off to Cavanaugh, who went up for a layup but missed in what seemed like a game-defining blown opportunity at the time. 

An earlier Cavanaugh jumper cut the Davidson lead to 44-42 with 3:38 to play, but both teams went scoreless over a three-minute stretch to follow. Davidson inbounded with 33 seconds left in a situation where Fordham either had to get a steal or a foul; Cavanaugh was able to get the latter and earn an immediate foul and trip to the free-throw line to try to tie the game. She did just that, and it was Davidson’s turn to respond, which they did. Senior Ally Welling, who finished with eight points and seven rebounds, made a midrange jumper to put the Wildcats up two with 4.5 seconds to play.

With the lid on the rim all night, it did not seem like Fordham would have an answer. Keep in mind: Fordham was 0-15 from three on the evening. That is, until the Rams were 1-16.

Freshman Sarah Karpell was tasked with the inbound pass in the frontcourt. She passed into Cavanaugh in the left corner, and Cavanaugh’s back was to the basket right before she made the catch. In one motion, Cavanaugh squared to the basket and fired, making a fadeaway three, giving Fordham the lead and sending the Rose Hill Gym into hysterics. She followed up her shot with a gravity-defying, fist-pumping celebration that was reminiscent of the likes of Michael Jordan and the late Kobe Bryant.

On the ensuing possession, the Wildcats were able to get into the paint, but freshman Adelaide Fuller missed a difficult turnaround jumper, and Fordham stole a victory on a night in which it led for just 2.1 seconds in the second half.

Cavanaugh finished the night shooting 8-27 from the field, and she started by shooting just 1-12 in the first half. To put the ball in her hands, with the way she and Fordham shot the ball all night, required a great deal of trust from Gaitley and her staff. Cavanaugh rewarded that trust by doing what she does best: nailing a difficult shot in the face of tight defense.

“We did that in spite of Bre not shooting well in the first half and Kendell (Heremaia) not playing her normal game,” Gaitley told WFUV.

Cavanaugh played with her usual relentless energy despite her shooting woes and fell just one rebound short of a double-double. The only other Ram in double-figures was freshman Anna DeWolfe, who had 10 points and helped keep Fordham in the game with some tough shots in the first half. The win was significant for Fordham to try to keep pace in the A-10 standings; the Rams now sit at 8-3 while the loss dropped Davidson to 6-5. Fordham is still third in the conference and, as it stands right now, would have to play a first-round game in the A-10 tournament.

Fordham also got a significant jolt from redshirt sophomore Vilisi Tavui, who has played more meaningful minutes in the past few games. Things seem to be clicking for Tavui, who struggled earlier in the season but has started to thrive in a bench role recently. She proved her worth again on Thursday night as she amassed a career-high 26 minutes, equally due to Heremaia’s foul trouble and her own strong play. 

With the win, which can best be described as a “steal,” the Rams are winners of four straight games. Next up is an intriguing road matchup with Richmond on Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. The Spiders enter the game at 5-6 in conference play, but with so few games remaining in the season, every game is expected to be a battle.

Fordham probably shouldn’t have won on Thursday night. The Rams couldn’t make a basket and, despite excellent defense, they weren’t scoring enough to keep pace with Davidson.

But just because you don’t succeed on your first 15 attempts doesn’t mean that the 16th won’t be the one that changes everything. Fordham proved that on Thursday and in the process, got one of its biggest wins of the year.

Men’s Tennis Dominates UConn

This article originally appeared in The Fordham Ram in February 2020.

The Fordham men’s tennis team earned a road victory on Saturday afternoon with a 6-1 win over the University of Connecticut.

Believe it or not, things started inauspiciously for the Rams on Saturday. After a hard-fought start to the match, the home Huskies took the doubles point despite an impressive victory by the combination of senior Finn Kemper and junior Alex Makatsaria. However, when junior Max Green and sophomore Jofre Segarra dropped their doubles match, UConn earned the first points of the day.

Despite early appearances, it was the last concession Fordham made that day.

The Rams were able to take every singles match for the rest of the afternoon and cruise to a 6-1 victory for the team’s second win of the season. Senior Fabian Mauritzson got the singles matches started with a Fordham victory, and Green’s subsequent match proved to be a turning point on the afternoon.

He took down UConn’s John Holtmann in a third-set tiebreak to earn the victory and propel Fordham to a lead it would not relinquish. In the next four matches, juniors Lutwin de Macar and Alex Makatsaria, along with Kemper and senior Steven Duka, all earned victories. Duka, in fact, earned his first victory of the season on Saturday.

With the win, Fordham is now on a two-game winning streak, with a 3-2 record on the season. The Rams will take some time off after Saturday’s win, as the squad does not compete until Feb. 22 at Siena College. All during a nearly two-month road trip for the Rams, as the team played its last home match on Jan. 25 and will not return home again until March 15.