DeWolfe Wins Share of Atlantic 10 Player of the Year Award

NOTE: This article originally appeared in The Fordham Ram in March 2021.

For the second-consecutive year, a Fordham Women’s Basketball star has been named Atlantic 10 Player of the Year.

Sophomore guard Anna DeWolfe has been named the conference’s Co-Player of the Year for the 2020-21 seasonBryson Cavanaugh won the award last season.

DeWolfe, who is the 15th-leading scorer in the country with 22.1 points per game, will share the award with Rhode Island’s Emmanuelle Tahane, who finished the year averaging 15 points and just over 10 rebounds per game. Both players have led their teams to excellent seasons: Fordham will hold the No. 2 seed at this week’s Atlantic 10 tournament, while Rhode Island will be the No. 4 seed.

DeWolfe’s production and development have come after a freshman year in which she averaged over 12 points per game and showed impressive poise. Still, her progression has been impressive even by those high standards; DeWolfe was named a preseason third-team player.

Now, the task for Fordham moves to winning the Atlantic 10 tournament. Fordham’s title quest starts on Friday evening at 5 p.m., as the Rams await the winner of St. Joe’s and UMass on Thursday evening at 5 p.m.

Women’s Basketball Earns Hard-Fought Win in Return to Court

NOTE: This article originally appeared in The Fordham Ram in March 2021.

Fordham’s two-week pause of in-person activities came at a very inopportune time for the women’s basketball team. The Rams had just won five games in a row, including victories over the likes of Saint Louis and Rhode Island, two of the top four teams in the Atlantic 10 standings.

When the team scheduled a non-conference game against A-10 foe George Washington University on Thursday, a healthy dose of skepticism was very fair. Fordham hadn’t played in nearly three weeks and had only recently returned to practice. Fordham — having already clinched the No. 2 seed at next week’s conference tournament — needed at least one more tune-up before the beginning of the A-10 tournament.

Despite early offensive struggles, the Rams overcame a second-half deficit to earn a 48-43 victory. The win was Fordham’s sixth in a row and second over George Washington this season.

Offensively, Fordham came out of the gate looking like a team that hadn’t played in nearly a month. The team’s signature defense traveled to Washington, D.C., but the offense was sluggish, turning it over five times and scoring just 10 points. However, Fordham nursed a 10-8 lead into the second quarter after holding GW to just 4-12 from the field.

Fordham’s offensive struggles continued into the second quarter. Another five turnovers and a 3-9 shooting performance resulted in a match of its first quarter total of just 10 points. After freshman guard Matilda Flood fouled GW redshirt junior guard Gabby Nikitinaite shooting a three, the Colonials took a one-point lead into the half. It tied Fordham’s last game against Saint Joseph’s University, in which the Rams led 29-12, for the fewest combined first-half points in a Fordham game this season.

In the second half, it took Fordham nearly four-and-a-half minutes to score, and they only scored seven points in the quarter. George Washington freshman Ali Brigham’s layup in the quarter’s final seconds put the Colonials up 33-27 with 10 minutes to play. With their postseason seeding in hand and having not played in 20 days, the Rams could be forgiven for letting this game slip through the cracks. 

But despite the built-in excuses, Fordham did exactly the opposite.

Senior guard Kendell Heremaia’s jumper with 7:14 left pulled Fordham within four. Thursday’s performance from Heremaia was one of her best of the season, as she shot 7-10 from the field en route to 19 points and eight rebounds. Sophomore guard Anna DeWolfe, who is currently the favorite for Atlantic 10 Player of the Year, made her own jumper with 5:32 to play to pull the Rams within two. On the next possession, DeWolfe’s three gave Fordham its first lead since late in the first half. As was the case for most of the game, the two teams struggled to make a basket for two minutes thereafter until Heremaia’s three-pointer with three minutes left put Fordham up four. 

The teams traded points in the final few minutes, and Fordham found itself up 46-39 with a minute to play on the strength of a Heremaia jumper and five combined free throws from DeWolfe and senior guard Katie McLoughlin. GW junior Neila Luma’s two free throws with 44 seconds left made it a five-point game, and Nikitinaite’s layup with 26 seconds to play made it 46-43. Fittingly, GW sophomore Essence Brown fouled Heremaia almost immediately. The senior, in her final regular-season game with the Rams, made both free throws. Fordham got a stop on the next possession, and left the nation’s capital with a 48-43 victory.

The win does not count towards Fordham’s conference record, as the game was specifically commissioned by the conference as an out-of-conference contest. This was the last game of the Atlantic 10 regular season, as all other teams wrapped up their seasons last weekend.

Nonetheless, Fordham will take the win and move into the conference tournament next week in Richmond, Virginia. The Rams will get an extended reprieve from game action, as the team’s top-four seed earned them a double-bye straight to the conference quarterfinals, which will be played next Friday. Fordham will take on either St. Joe’s or the University of Massachusetts Amherst in that game. Fordham beat St. Joe’s 51-36 on Feb. 12; the Rams lost to UMass 61-56 on Jan. 10.

With Thursday’s win, Fordham finishes its regular season at 12-3, with all sorts of schedule changes plaguing the Rams’ ability to play. Nonetheless, head coach Stephanie Gaitley’s team made the most of a very difficult season. That may be the biggest win of all.

Baseball Tries to Stay on Top in Tough Atlantic 10

NOTE: This article originally appeared in The Fordham Ram in February 2021.

Fordham Baseball is still the reigning champion of the Atlantic 10.

Yes, a lot has changed since the team’s historic 2019 season. Several main pieces from that team — closer Kyle Martin, starting pitchers Anthony DiMeglio and John Stankiewicz and infielder Jake MacKenzie, to name a few — have moved on to the professional ranks. Other key contributors, like catcher Justin Bardwell and relief pitcher Anthony Zimmerman, graduated after 2019. Others, like outfielders Billy Godrick and Jake Baker, won’t be back this season; Godrick is finishing his career close to his Millersville, Maryland home at Towson University.

Still, despite those losses, the Rams boast a lot of talent heading into an unprecedented season. Of the nine players to play at least 50 games in 2019, four remain with the team — senior infielder C.J. Vazquez joins senior outfielders Nick Labella and Alvin Melendez and junior outfielder Jason Coules. Three of the four were hitting over .300 when Fordham’s season was cut short last year.

“Our guys are extremely hungry to get out and compete this year,” head coach Kevin Leighton said. “I think that what last year taught us is that you never know when your last game is going to come, so you need to play each like it’s your last. I know that even in the limited time we’ve been able to have with our guys this semester, when we get the green light to play, they will be ready.”

There is, of course, the most pressing immediate matter for the team to take care of. Fordham was supposed to kick off its season last Saturday at Villanova University; that game, and the next five games, all against Sacred Heart University at Houlihan Park on the Rose Hill campus, have been removed from the schedule due to the Fordham’s pause on in-person activities and athletic events. For now, the team’s first scheduled game is a home tilt with Stony Brook University on March 3.

When the Rams do hit the field, they will have the opportunity to defend their A-10 title. The league’s preseason coaches poll picked Fordham to finish second in the league behind only Virginia Commonwealth University. The team’s returning assets are a big reason why.

Senior starting pitcher Matt Mikulski headlines a rotation that lost Stankiewicz, who signed with the Minnesota Twins as an undrafted free agent last summer. Despite having the opportunity to jump to the professional ranks, Leighton said Mikulski turned down several professional offers after going undrafted.

“Everything about his game has gone up a notch in my opinion,” Leighton said. “His velocity, command, consistency, everything. I think he’s been on a mission since last year’s draft to prove how good he is, and I can’t wait to see him pitch this spring.” A recent social media post, which showed Mikulski’s compact, left-handed delivery, says Mikulski hit 97 mph on the radar gun.

With Mikulski leading the starting rotation, the Rams will look to get their pitchers run support. The loss of MacKenzie stings, but Leighton still feels the offense can produce.

“I think we have a solid core returning offensively but losing a guy like Jake MacKenzie is tough,” he said. “That said, we definitely have some talented offensive players that can put runs on the board for us.”

In addition to the more experienced players on the team, there are some newcomers who could make an immediate impact this season. Among the team’s freshmen, Leighton cited pitchers Brooks Ey, Cameron Knox and Declan Lavelle as hurlers who showed positive signs in the fall. Among the team’s new position players, freshman infielder Trey Maeker stood out to Leighton, who said that he was very impressive.

On the field, Fordham will have a chance to win the Atlantic 10 once again. Off the field, as teams across college sports can attest, there are plenty of questions. Fordham has already lost six games to COVID-19 restrictions before getting its season off the ground. The virus will remain a presence in the country throughout the team’s season, and Leighton is under no illusions as to how difficult this season could be.

“I think this spring will bring so many challenges,” Leighton said. “From scheduling, to testing, to meals on the road, to shutdowns, this year looks to be very different than any before. I think this year will test every team’s mental toughness, adaptability and discipline. However, all that said, our guys can’t wait to get on the field again and compete, and I can’t wait to watch them.” 

Women’s Basketball Locks Down St. Joe’s Before Athletics Pause

NOTE: This article originally appeared in The Fordham Ram in February 2021.

Before the events of this weekend, which saw all Fordham Athletics games and practices shut down for the next two weeks, Fordham Women’s Basketball was rolling. Fordham had won four games in a row, and the team’s offense had scored at least 68 points in three of those four games. Entering a weekend where the team was supposed to host St. Joseph’s University and La Salle University, two of the teams near the bottom of the Atlantic 10 standings, Fordham had an opportunity to improve upon its 7-2 record in conference play.

Unfortunately, due to a spike in COVID-19 cases on the Rose Hill campus, Fordham only got to play one of those games. Without knowing of this latest, unexpected turn in an unprecedented season, the Rams certainly made it count. 

Fordham defeated St. Joe’s 51-36 on Friday afternoon behind 15 points, 12 rebounds and six assists from junior forward Kaitlyn Downey. 

The Rams got off to a slow start offensively, shooting just 3-13 in the first quarter. However, a stout defensive performance characteristic of the program’s culture led the team to an 11-7 lead after 10 minutes of play. In the second quarter, the shots began to fall. Fordham made four three-pointers in the second quarter and scored 18 points in the second to pull away from the visiting Hawks. Fordham held St. Joe’s to just 12 first-half points; 10 of those points belonged to junior guard Kaliah Henderson, who Fordham had a hard time containing in the half. Otherwise, the Rams’ defensive performance was pristine, allowing St. Joe’s to make just four of its 26 attempts (15%). Fordham led by as many as 19 points in the first half.

However, St. Joe’s came out swinging in the third quarter.

After being dominated in the first half, St. Joe’s went on a 13-3 run in the third. The Hawks got points from six different scorers during the quarter. In the first half, no Hawks players besides Henderson made a shot. This diverse offensive attack, combined with Fordham’s 1-13 shooting performance in the quarter, made it just a seven-point Fordham lead going to the fourth. 

In the final 10 minutes, though, Fordham restored order and pulled away on the scoreboard.

Sophomore guard Anna DeWolfe’s jumper with 6:22 to play gave Fordham a nine-point lead, and baskets by junior forward Meg Jonassen and senior guard Kendell Heremaia shortly thereafter put Fordham up by 13. Heremaia’s three-pointer with 2:52 left put Fordham up 13, and the Rams went on to win 51-36. The Rams’ 51 points mark the fewest the team has scored in a win since Feb. 22, 2020, when Fordham handed Dayton its only conference loss of the season at the Rose Hill Gym. 

Downey was the best player on the floor on Friday. She scored 15 points, hauled in 12 rebounds, earned six assists, handed out four blocks and made three steals. DeWolfe added 13 points and Heremaia scored 12 points and earned six rebounds. Senior guard Katie McLoughlin set a new career-high with 10 rebounds to go along with seven points.

Unfortunately for Fordham, the team’s best basketball of the season will be paused until at least Feb. 28. As part of Fordham’s shutdown of in-person activities, all athletics competitions and practices are on pause until then. This action will have wide-ranging effects on clubs and organizations across the Rose Hill campus, and the women’s basketball team is no different.

With this shutdown, the team will likely go to the A-10 tournament in Richmond, Virginia at the beginning of March without any runway to take off. The team’s regular-season finale was scheduled for Feb. 28 — the final scheduled day of Fordham’s lockdown — against Saint Louis. Assuming the season goes on as scheduled with the other A-10 member schools, Fordham has played its final game of the regular season. Seniors Heremaia, McLoughlin, Edona Thaqi, Ralene Kwiatkowski and Lauren Murphy have suited up for their final games at the Rose Hill Gym. 

The next steps for the team remain to be seen. The Rams currently have the second-best record in the A-10, but the team could be usurped in the standings by other teams that now have several games in hand. 

Fordham won impressively on Friday, but won’t have the chance to win again until March.

Women’s Basketball Petitions University: “Let Fordham Women’s Basketball Play”

NOTE: This article originally appeared in The Fordham Ram in February 2021.

The Fordham women’s basketball team worked all season to follow COVID-19 protocols. The team has taken 1,400 tests for the virus over the past six months without a positive test. Strictly judging by the numbers, the team has abided by health and safety protocols without contributing to rapidly spreading disease spread both on and off-campus.

But on Sunday, the Rams’ season hit an indefinite roadblock. 

Due to Fordham clearing 100 active COVID-19 cases on the Rose Hill campus, the University has placed a two-week pause on all in-person campus activities. That includes Fordham Athletics. Like it is for all of Fordham’s clubs and organizations, this pause is extremely difficult to navigate for Fordham’s basketball teams, who are entering the final weeks of their respective seasons. For the Fordham women’s basketball team, this is a particularly bitter pill to swallow; Fordham was in second place in the Atlantic 10 at the time of the shutdown, having won the previous five games. 

Because of this shutdown, which would also hamper the team’s ability to compete in the Atlantic 10 tournament the first week in March, the team is turning to an online petition for support.

Junior forward Kaitlyn Downey has started a petition to reinstate the team’s schedule for the final weeks of the season. 

“We have trusted our University and now we are asking you to trust us now,” the petition reads. “With our backs against the wall, we are asking for the Fordham Administration to not walk away from us now. We have an incredibly strong travel plan, Doctor’s approvals and funding plan that we have prepared to make our reality.” In addition, Downey writes that the team has agreed to sign waivers that would absolve the University of liability in the event a player or staff member becomes ill.

“It’s extremely disappointing,” Downey says of the shutdown. “Being a program that has 25+ people part of it, in a geographical location that’s highly impacted by COVID-19 and still to remain negative for over six months, is an incredible feat. We just don’t feel like that’s being recognized.”

Due to New York state guidelines set forth by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in August, Universities that reach 100 COVID-19 cases in a span of two weeks, that school must go to remote learning for two weeks, as Fordham has done. Cuomo’s guidelines state that during a period like the one Fordham is in now,  “in-person athletic events, extracurricular programs and other non-essential student activities must be suspended.” Within the petition, Downey writes that the team is willing to complete its season on the road if need be.

Downey also says that the team has followed all the University protocols, including thrice-a-week testing and maintaining little social contact with people from outside the team.

“Now, we’re just asking the University to trust us just like we have trusted them these past six months,” she says.

As of publishing, the petition has over 1600 signatures in just a few hours online. Downey says it is gratifying to get such a level of support from the Fordham community and supporters of the team.

“It’s an incredible feeling, just to know that there’s a community supporting us so strongly,” she says. “We’ve sacrificed so much these past six months and we know other people have made tremendous sacrifices, as well, and we never want to discount that. We just know we have a pressing deadline that is really to change what our season looks like. Knowing all the work we’ve put in and all the sacrifices everyone has made that is a part of this journey, we’re just hoping to see a result that we would love to be able to participate in.”

The petition also concludes, “The players of Fordham Women’s Basketball understand the gravity of this situation and are confident that our support would be reciprocated to any other program within the Fordham Community.” 

It is unclear how much this petition will change the team’s current situation. Downey told The Ram that the team sent an email to Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of the university on Monday, but is yet to receive a response. She says the team is looking for an explanation as to why the outcome of the season has been taken out of their hands, and to speak with him as to how to rectify the situation.

“As we know, this world that we live in has not been the most positive place recently,” Downey says. “We are just looking for little sparks of hope, of just being to play a couple more basketball games. This team is really special and we just want to keep being able to seek those rewards that we’ve been pushing for all season long.”

Women’s Basketball Earns Come-from-Behind Win, Gaitley Earns 200th Fordham Victory

NOTE: This article originally appeared in The Fordham Ram in February 2021.

Fordham Women’s Basketball earned a 56-53 victory over Rhode Island on Sunday despite trailing by as many as nine points in the third quarter.

Fordham and Rhode Island faced off at the Rose Hill Gym after Fordham’s weekend games at Richmond and VCU were both canceled following positive COVID-19 tests in both programs. Rhode Island was also in need of a weekend game, as their Sunday game with George Washington was postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test in the Colonials’ program.

Once the two teams made it to Sunday, Rhode Island got off to a hot start. The visiting Rams kicked off the game on an 8-1 run, and while Fordham chipped away at the deficit, the home Rams could never wrest control of the lead. Fordham cut the Rhode Island lead to one near the end of the first, but back-to-back makes by grad transfer Johanna Muzet and redshirt Emmanuelle Tahane gave Rhode Island a five-point cushion entering the second quarter.

The second quarter story was much of the same. Fordham twice cut the deficit to just one point, but Rhode Island ended the quarter on a 9-4 run to take a six-point lead into the locker room. 

In the third quarter, Fordham finally made headway. After baskets by redshirt freshman Yanni Hendley and Muzet made it a nine-point game, Fordham went on a 12-2 run to take the lead. Head coach Stephanie Gaitley’s timeout paid dividends, as back-to-back threes by sophomore guard Sarah Karpell and junior forward Kaitlyn Downey helped key the Fordham run. Four straight points by sophomore guard Anna DeWolfe put Fordham in front by one, and back-to-back threes by senior guard Kendell Heremaia and DeWolfe helped keep Fordham in front heading into the fourth quarter.

In the final quarter, Rhode Island threw the first punches. Sophomore forward Marie-Paule Foppossi gave URI the lead with back-to-back baskets, and Tahane’s layup put Rhode Island up by five with eight minutes to play. Fordham senior guard Katie McLoughlin’s jumper made it a three-point game with 7:29 to go, and both teams went without a basket for nearly two minutes thereafter. With just over five minutes to go, DeWolfe — like she has so many times this season — bailed out the Rams’ offense, with a jumper and a three-pointer to put Fordham in front. 

But Rhode Island wasn’t done. Senior guard Marta Vargas’ three put URI up 50-48 with 3:32 to play. But once more, Fordham came through when it needed points. Heremaia made a layup to tie the game with 1:56 to go, and was fouled by Vargas after an offensive rebound with 1:25 to go. She made both free throws to put Fordham ahead 52-50. Hendley missed back-to-back attempts to tie the game for Rhode Island, and two more free throws from DeWolfe made it 54-50 Fordham with 12 seconds to play. 

With Rhode Island’s chances on life support, Vargas missed a three with seven seconds left. But Muzet snagged a long rebound and made a three of her own to cut the lead back down to one with two seconds to play. Downey was immediately fouled on the inbounds pass and made both free throws to put Fordham up three with 1.2 seconds left in regulation.

Rhode Island needed a three to tie the game and force overtime. The Rams wouldn’t get it. Coming out of a final timeout, Rhode Island head coach Tammi Reiss designed a play to get Vargas open at the top of the key. For a moment, Vargas cleared space and hoisted up a three, but Fordham junior forward Meg Jonassen was in position to defend and got a hand in Vargas’ face, forcing a shot that was well short of the rim. Fordham earned the victory, head coach Stephanie Gaitley’s 200th win at Fordham.

“This was such a great team win,” Gaitley told Fordham Athletics postgame. “We showed so much toughness and resilience against a very good Rhode Island team.”

The win moves Fordham to 7-2 in the A-10 and second place in the conference standings. Fordham has now beaten Rhode Island twice this season; the Rams earned a 64-58 victory in Kingston on Jan. 8. Two of Rhode Island’s three A-10 losses have come at Fordham’s hands, and Fordham finds itself behind only undefeated Dayton in the standings. 

Fordham will be staying home this coming weekend. The Rams take on St. Joe’s on Friday at 12 p.m. and host La Salle on Sunday at 2 p.m. The momentum is squarely on Fordham’s side, and the Rams are coming together nicely as the season roars towards its conclusion.

Women’s Basketball Routs Davidson, Heremaia Repeats as A-10 Player of the Week

NOTE: This article originally appeared in The Fordham Ram in February 2021.

The Fordham women’s basketball team traveled to Davidson, N.C. this weekend with one goal in mind: avenging a conference-opening 79-64 loss to Davidson College on Dec. 21. In that game, Fordham looked lost defensively, allowing easy baskets in transition and playing uncharacteristically bad defense.

It was unlikely that we would see a repeat of that performance on Sunday. However, instead of merely compensating for the faults exhibited in the first matchup, the Rams turned the tables on the Wildcats.

Fordham routed Davidson 73-55 on Sunday behind 27 points from sophomore guard Anna DeWolfe and senior guard Kendell Heremaia’s 20 points and 11 rebounds. For her efforts, Heremaia was named the Atlantic 10’s player of the week for the second-straight week. Heremaia earned the honor last week after scoring 20 points and grabbing eight rebounds against St. Bonaventure on Jan. 22.

Fordham got off to a slow start offensively on Sunday. Despite a strong start on the defensive end, the Rams shot just 3-14 in the first quarter. Davidson carried a 12-11 lead into the second quarter after a layup by sophomore forward Adelaide Fuller beat the buzzer at the end of the first. This would be Davidson’s last lead of the game.

Fordham started the second quarter on an 8-0 run behind baskets from DeWolfe, Heremaia and junior forward Kaitlyn Downey. Davidson cut the deficit to four after Wildcats coach Gayle Fulks called a timeout, but Fordham only expanded the lead from there. Junior forward Meg Jonassen ended the half with a made jumper off the backboard, after a possession in which Fordham nearly turned it over multiple times. That play made the score 28-20 at the half.

In the final 20 minutes, DeWolfe and Heremaia took over the game, and Fordham’s offense was nearly unstoppable.

Fordham outscored Davidson 23-13 in the third quarter, on the strength of a 7-13 performance from the field. Two of the Rams’ three makes from beyond the arc came from senior guard Katie McLoughlin, who scored on back-to-back possessions about halfway through the quarter. Fordham took an 18-point lead into the fourth quarter, and despite a respectable Davidson finish, the Rams came away with an 18-point win. 

The victory did not come without its own fireworks, however. In a late flourish, DeWolfe scored the Rams’ final 10 points of the game to give her 27 points on the day. Heremaia got to 20 points on the strength of a difficult step-back three with around five minutes to go. Davidson finished the game on an 8-2 run, but the late comeback occurred well after the outcome had been decided.

The biggest improvement for Fordham from the first Davidson matchup was the team’s defense. Davidson shot 28-52 (54%) from the field in that game, but the Rams held the Wildcats to just 20-62 (32%) this time around. More shots fell for the Rams in this matchup as well, but for a program that prides itself on tough defense under head coach Stephanie Gaitley, Sunday’s performance was a welcome sight.

This is the third straight victory for the Rams. Despite losing out on a couple of matchups due to COVID-19 protocols with other teams, Fordham has not missed a beat since an early-January loss to the University of Massachusetts.

In addition, the performances of DeWolfe and Heremaia were singularly outstanding. Heremaia, in earning another player of the week award from the A-10, showed how she is capable of taking over a game at any given time. In addition to scoring and rebounding, she also has shown herself adept at facilitating offense for her teammates, as she doled out four assists. With Sunday’s performance — which also included three steals — Heremaia became the seventh player in program history to earn 800 points, 500 rebounds, 200 assists and 100 steals in her distinguished career.

As for DeWolfe, she continues to make a compelling case for A-10 Player of the Year. Averaging 23.2 points per game, DeWolfe eclipses the conference’s second-leading scorer — UMass’ Sam Breen — by nearly six points per game. If she were to continue on this pace and win the award, DeWolfe would be the second straight Ram to win the A-10’s top honor, after Bryson Cavanaugh took home the hardware last year.

Fordham’s next two games are both in Richmond, Va. The Rams take on the University of Richmond at 5 p.m. on Friday. On Sunday, the team pays a noon visit to Virginia Commonwealth University. Both opponents are currently a half-game ahead of Fordham in the Atlantic 10 standings.

Women’s Basketball Takes Down Saint Louis After Dayton Cancelation

NOTE: This article originally appeared in The Fordham Ram in January 2021.

Fordham Women’s Basketball earned a 72-63 victory over Saint Louis on Sunday, after a dizzying sequence of events and a last-minute schedule change.

This is a college basketball season like no other. The spread of COVID-19 within programs across the country has forced many cancelations; the virus has also forced teams to adapt. Sometimes, that means scheduling games on the fly. The Fordham women’s basketball team is learning that first-hand.

“You’re expecting to play a team the next day, and all of a sudden, it gets taken away just like that,” junior forward Kaitlyn Downey said in November. “So just understanding that there’s going to be a lot of errors in this season and just being ready to take the punches and keep moving on, because we know at the end of the day, we want to win an A-10 championship, and it’s going to take just moving through all those punches, winning the games that we have available to us and just moving forward.”

That exact scenario happened to the Rams this weekend.

Fordham was supposed to play Dayton on Saturday afternoon. However, on Friday morning, the Flyers’ program registered a positive test for COVID-19, canceling the game. Instead of flying back to the Bronx and taking the rest of the weekend off, the Rams took a five-and-a-half hour bus ride to Missouri, setting up a Sunday afternoon matchup between Fordham and Saint Louis. Saint Louis’ program had been previously shut down due to a positive COVID-19 test, which had postponed a previously-scheduled matchup with Fordham, which was initially set for last Thursday night.

Comprehending all of that is a challenge to any outside observer, let alone those involved in such a last-minute swap. But once Fordham ironed out its scheduling situation, the Rams set out to take down Saint Louis. 

Despite the havoc leading up to the game, the Rams were able to accomplish just that.

Fordham’s 72-63 victory came in spite of a slow start and just five first-quarter points. The Rams took 10 threes in that quarter, but only made one. From the second quarter on, though, the shots began to fall. Fordham scored 25 points in the second quarter to take a 30-27 lead into the half. Sophomore guard Anna DeWolfe, the Atlantic 10’s leading scorer, scored 12 points in the half, while Downey added five assists. In spite of the slow start, the Rams scored 15 unanswered points to end the second quarter.

Fordham continued its hot shooting in the second half. Downey hit five three-pointers to lead an offense that finished with 13 made shots from three-point range on the game. Senior forward Kendell Heremaia made a clutch three with a minute left to put Fordham up by nine, and the Rams maintained that margin en route to a win.

The triumvirate of DeWolfe, Downey and Heremaia led the way for Fordham on Sunday. Those three players combined for 64 of Fordham’s 72 points — DeWolfe scored 26, Downey had 24 points and 13 rebounds and Heremaia added 14 points to go along with nine rebounds and five assists. Those three players were expected to step up this season, and they did so again on Sunday. But this game was their best performance in concert, as the contributions of all three were essential in Fordham’s win over a Saint Louis team that was picked to finish third in the conference.

This was a memorable and rewarding weekend, whose unpredictability Fordham hopes never to repeat. The Rams have two home games set for this weekend; St. Bonaventure comes to town on Friday afternoon and the Rams host Duquesne on Sunday afternoon. Fordham will ride into those two games off an improbable weekend the team will not soon forget.

Women’s Basketball Beats Rhode Island, Falls to UMass

NOTE: This article originally appeared in The Fordham Ram in January 2021.

The Fordham women’s basketball team split a pair of away games this past weekend, taking down the University of Rhode Island on Friday but falling to the University of Massachusetts on Sunday.

First, Fordham traveled to Rhode Island for a battle of the Rams on Friday. Fordham jumped out to a 16-point halftime lead behind sophomore guard Anna DeWolfe, who scored 17 points in the first 20 minutes. DeWolfe remains the conference’s leading scorer, averaging 22 points per game through the Rams’ first nine contests. Fordham’s first-half lead sustained them through the second half, as they were able to hold on for a 62-54 victory, which moved them to 3-1 early in the Atlantic 10 season.

In addition to DeWolfe, who finished with 27 points to lead all scorers, Fordham also got 16 points and nine rebounds out of senior forward Kendell Heremaia. Junior forward Kaitlyn Downey added eight points and nine rebounds, while junior forward Meg Jonassen, continuing her solid play to start the season, had nine points and six rebounds. 

One of the biggest stories for Fordham in Friday’s game was the Rams’ shooting from three-point range. Fordham — which has attempted the fourth-most threes in the Atlantic 10 and converted at the highest rate in the conference — made 11 of its 21 attempts from downtown on Friday. An offense that is contingent upon taking and making open shots thrived with plenty of open looks on Friday.

That same offense, which made more than half of its three-point attempts just two days prior, struggled mightily in the second half against UMass.

At first glance, Fordham’s offensive numbers don’t look much different from Friday to Sunday. The Rams made one fewer three-pointer and attempted one more; the team also earned 11 more offensive rebounds and took 18 more shots overall. But a deeper look at Sunday’s game reveals many other facets of the game that went very wrong for Fordham.

The biggest issue, by far, was foul trouble. Heremaia earned her fourth foul with four minutes to play in the third quarter, and shortly after re-entering in the fourth quarter, Heremaia fouled out with three minutes to go. Downey also found herself in foul trouble all game long, and she fouled out with just over a minute left. In part because of this foul trouble, both players didn’t get to play as much as they would have liked. Downey played 28 minutes on Sunday after playing 37 minutes and 34 minutes in the previous two games. Heremaia only got to play for 18 minutes as she racked up her fouls.

In addition to the foul situation, a third-quarter slump ultimately doomed the Rams on Sunday. Fordham shot just 2-17 from the field in the third quarter, and after holding a seven-point lead at the half, brought a two-point deficit into the fourth quarter.

UMass senior forward Sam Breen took over in the second half, scoring 17 of her 19 points and giving the Fordham defense trouble. While Jonassen performed admirably defending Breen, the senior was very tough to stop in the post, particularly with turnaround jumpers. Breen’s 19 points led a UMass team that is quickly emerging as a legitimate contender in the Atlantic 10.

With Sunday’s defeat, Fordham falls to 6-3 on the season and 3-2 in A-10 play. Next up is a visit to Dayton on Saturday to take on the defending conference champions. Fordham handed Dayton its only conference loss last season.

The Rams were also scheduled to visit Saint Louis on Thursday night. That game has been called off due to COVID-19 issues in the Saint Louis program.

Women’s Basketball Blows Out George Mason, Holds on for Win Over George Washington

NOTE: This article originally appeared in The Fordham Ram in January 2021.

The success of the Fordham women’s basketball team over the past decade has often hinged on its ability to defend. In the team’s Atlantic 10 championship seasons of 2013-14 and 2018-19, Fordham allowed opponents to score just over 56 and 54 points per game, respectively. So far this season, the Rams are once again rounding into form on the defensive end.

On New Year’s Day, Fordham’s defense played historically well in a runaway victory. On Sunday, the Rams needed their defense to come through late in the game to preserve a slim lead.

Fordham started 2021 with a resounding 62-32 victory over George Mason. The 32 points Fordham allowed in the win was just one point shy of the program record for fewest points allowed in a game, and a late layup from George Mason sophomore center Jazmyn Doster prevented Fordham from making history. 

Sophomore guard Anna DeWolfe led all scorers with 18 points on Friday, while senior guard Kendell Heremaia added 15 points and six rebounds. Fordham led the game 32-11 at the half, and George Mason couldn’t get the deficit below 19 points at any point in the final two quarters.

Friday’s game was a particularly impressive performance for the Rams, but not a particularly tough finish. This could not be said about Sunday’s game against George Washington.

A Colonials team that entered Sunday’s game having blown a late lead against Davidson in its A-10 opener came to the Rose Hill Gym hungry to bounce back with a victory. Despite a strong Fordham start, GW kept the game close throughout, and Fordham entered the fourth quarter with just a six-point lead. Both teams struggled to make shots, with the Rams shooting just 31% and GW shooting south of 30% entering the fourth quarter. The limited offensive output of both teams was not a result of poor execution, so much as it was a byproduct of excellent defense on both sides.

George Washington landed the first punch in the fourth quarter, going on a 6-0 run in the first three minutes to tie the game at 36. Junior forward Neila Luma’s layup with 4:31 to play gave the Colonials their first lead since the opening minutes of the game, but back-to-back baskets made by Heremaia and DeWolfe put Fordham back in front with just over three minutes left. Freshman guard Aurea Gingras made a free throw with 2:41 to go that tied the game at 44, and it would stay that way until there was under a minute left.

Fordham’s defense had delivered all day, holding GW in check and forcing difficult shots. As the seconds ticked down, the Rams’ offense came through to put Fordham up for good. 

Heremaia found DeWolfe in the corner, and despite Luma putting a hand in the Fordham star’s face, DeWolfe drilled the shot to put Fordham up 47-44. On the other end, junior forward Meg Jonassen stole an errant pass and won possession for Fordham. Heremaia made two clutch free throws with 13 seconds left to put Fordham up five, but the game was far from over.

With GW in desperate need of a basket to keep the game alive, freshman forward Caranda Parea made a miraculous three over the outstretched arm of Fordham junior Kaitlyn Downey to cut the lead to two with 8.7 seconds left. But sophomore guard Sarah Karpell was able to find DeWolfe on the ensuing possession, and DeWolfe’s two clutch free throws put Fordham up by two possessions once more. Downey added two more free throws with a second to go, and Fordham escaped Sunday with a 53-47 victory.

DeWolfe and Heremaia once again led the way in scoring for the Rams, with 21 and 12 points, respectively. But Downey was the best player on the floor for Fordham all day, securing 18 rebounds and anchoring the tenacious Fordham defense. Downey’s 18 rebounds were the second-most for her in a game this season; she hauled in 20 rebounds in the Rams’ season-opener against Stony Brook.

The Rams beat George Washington by the same score they did last season, and last year’s victory over GW kickstarted a three-game winning streak for the Rams. Now, Fordham heads into a difficult portion of its schedule, with four games on the road over the next two weeks. The Rams visit Rhode Island on Friday at 4 p.m. before taking on UMass at 1 p.m on Sunday. Two games with Saint Louis and Dayton, two of the best teams in the conference, loom the weekend after. The A-10 slate is just getting started for Fordham, and it’s likely Sunday’s game wasn’t the last bare-knuckle finish the Rams will experience this year.