Atlantic 10 WBB: Fordham looks towards defense to lead the way

Pittsburgh, PA — Fordham coach Stephanie Gaitley is entering her 16th Atlantic 10 Championship and following Saturday’s loss to Saint Joseph’s, she sent an e-mail to her team.

Earlier in the week a similar message worked against Duquesne when Gaitley gathered her team in a Pittsburgh hotel to get on the same page following a setback to Dayton in which the team’s defense was not playing up to personal or team expectations.

“I explained to them what was necessary to win the championship because in my opinion, this is one of the most wide-open groups that we’ve had,” she said. “I listed some of what we needed to do and asked them to respond to make sure we were all in. The practice before Saint Joe’s was one of our worst and this one after the e-mail was one of our best.”

Gaitley was disappointed with the effort Saturday because she felt her team did not show up until the second half.

The defeat, coupled with Duquesne’s win at St. Bonaventure meant that Fordham is playing Tuesday and missed out on the second bye and automatic quarterfinal berth.

“They take their lead from me and I looked at it as if we have to play, let’s go, let’s lace them up and it is another opportunity to get better,” said Gaitley. “Sometimes the layoff is not beneficial so I was fine either way. I would have preferred the days off given the injuries that we had in the Duquesne game, but I also feel like when you have a week to play, sometimes that has an impact.”

Those injuries Gaitley referred to were G’mrice Davis and Mary Goulding both of whom had to leave the Duquesne game before ultimately returning.

“This time of year you have to put it all aside, you’re basically in a one-and-done situation,” Gaitley said. “We’re all in and all in for the entire stretch.”

Davis has 24 double-doubles on the season and has enjoyed another banner season. Bre Cavanaugh has been an impact performer as a freshman but has been streaky at times, including the end of the regular season. That being said, Cavanaugh still finds other ways to contribute. Lauren Holden has been the glue holding this puzzle together providing both steady play and consistent leadership.

As far as the opponent in this first round game, the Rams will face Rhode Island and Fordham will have a chance to correct some things from the earlier season meeting.

“They are a team that has improved and are trying to find its way,” said Gaitley. “They’ve played some close games and then UMass took the game Saturday. Their post player (Nicole Jorgensen) destroyed us here, she had 35 and had a career-high. I felt that was one of our poorest defensive efforts that game and when we showed the tape to our kids, they couldn’t believe how bad we were defensively. The emphasis is being placed on defense. We’ll get open shots, I’m confidence in that but we can beat good teams just by playing defense. We have to make them earn everything and be ready to play for 40 minutes.”

It is the defense which inspired Gaitley to send the e-mail, she just hopes that the message was received and not sent to the spam folder. At this time of the year, mistakes are magnified and Fordham is well aware of that.

“When you want to win a championship, there is no time for excuses anymore,” she said. “Individual stuff goes out the window, we have to do this as a team. It’s time to get it done without putting any blame elsewhere. The team that wins the championship will be the team that stays together for the longest stretch.”

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