By Kevin Noonan, QBSN Staff Writer
Just 24 hours after clinching the final automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, the question of who the Quinnipiac women’s basketball team was going to face in the first round was finally answered.
The Bobcats only had to wait about 15 minutes into the selection show on ESPN to find the answer.
When Quinnipiac finally showed up on the board, it was given the 13-seed, taking on 4-seed Maryland in College Park, Md. at 11:15 a.m. on Saturday.
“It feels so great, I am so excited right now. Yesterday was just a great moment, but there was almost like a little relief in actually winning it when all the expectation was there to win it,” head coach Tricia Fabbri said. “And then it was the anticipation of trying to figure out who we’re playing. Thank goodness we didn’t have to wait that long. We didn’t have to see the whole other side of the bracket.”
Despite the double-digit seed, the Bobcats are still thrilled with the opportunity.
“I’m not mad at it at all because this is our first time in the tournament,” sophomore Jasmine Martin (Sicklerville, N.J.) said. “Thirteen seed – I’ll take anything as long as we’re playing. We’ll take what we’re given and do what we do.”
Senior Lisa Lebak (Robbinsville, N.J.) has been with the program for four years and is playing the tournament for the first time.
“It is the greatest feeling, it’s everything we’ve worked for,” Lebak said. “We’ve been working so hard as a team, in season and off season. This is a great group of girls and I couldn’t be more excited to be going to the tournament with them.”
The excitement in the room when the matchup was announced was everything members of the program could imagine and truly basked in the moment.
“To be a part of this, I’m so ecstatic. I called my parents, and I told all of my friends. I mean I’m just the manager but the fact that I’m actually going to be a part of this and actually get to experience this with the girls is truly amazing,” team manager Tobi Momoh said.
Also set to play in College Park is 5-seed Michigan State taking on Quinnipiac’s future MAAC opponent 12-seed Marist.
If Quinnipiac and Marist were both to upset their opponents, it would set up a preview of what is to come in the MAAC next year and for years to come.
“I think its funny, looking on the other side that you have the opportunity that if we’re able to play well and get a win and Marist does the same, then we see two teams that will be in the same conference next year that both shared undefeated seasons,” Fabbri said.
Martin and Lebak both said that this Quinnipiac team could potentially do something that no other Bobcat team has done before: win an NCAA tournament game.
“I really think we could get one or two wins, do something that’s never been done. No NEC team has ever won a game, men or women’s, so if we can do something leaving the conference, just leave everything out there, we have nothing to lose,” Martin said.
After a dominant 72-33 victory over Saint Francis in the NEC championship game, it shows that Quinnipiac can step up to any challenge at any point.
“I really think we can do well, we have so many girls, so many talents, so many guns on the team that you really never know if we all work together and mesh the way we have been playing and keep going hard there’s no limit for us,” Lebak said.
Fabbri talked about how playing in College Park could be favorable for the Bobcats, because it allows many family and friends of the team to travel and watch them play in their first NCAA tournament game.
The excitement is high amongst the women’s basketball team, and matching up with Maryland is something they think they do well.
Quinnipiac (30-2) has six more wins than Maryland (24-7) and both teams are statistically very similar, causing the Bobcats to be even more excited for the matchup. A few injuries have plagued the Terrapins throughout the season, and with the Bobcats’ 12-player bench could provide an advantage.
“I think we can take advantage of that, you know run on them, use everyone we have, five in five out like we’ve been doing just don’t change anything, play Quinnipiac basketball and maybe we shock the world,” Martin said.
To some, the thought of an upset is a stretch, but from where the women’s basketball team has come in recent years is just adding to the hope throughout the organization.
“It’s awesome to see the team grow in my four years, we started rocky my freshman year and each year we got better and better,” Lebak said. “To finally get to this point, in my senior year, I couldn’t ask for anything better. It’s been awesome.”
Now that Quinnipiac knows it is taking on Maryland, the dream of making the NCAA tournament has finally become a reality.