Having gotten retribution for last year's championship game loss to Iona, Adily Martucci and Quinnipiac shift their attention to reaching NCAA Tournament for third time in five years. (Photo by Q30 Television)
ALBANY, NY -- Eyes on the prize.
That was the phrase Tricia Fabbri used to describe the mindset surrounding her Quinnipiac program and their goal of once again playing for a conference championship.
The Bobcats are there, for the fourth time in as many years in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and fifth in a row if you count the 2012-13 Northeast Conference season in which they ran the table and put a scare into Maryland in the NCAA Tournament, and the mantra by which they are living this weekend remains unchanged.
"We play the game to win," the winningest coach in program history surmised as Quinnipiac (26-6) takes on Rider Monday evening, with the MAAC championship hanging in the balance. "Winning is more fun. We work really hard, and we want to continue to push the program to new heights. That's maintaining not only what we've done in the past, but to take steps going forward."
"We're back at this point again, and we came up a little bit short last year," Fabbri continued. "We're looking to try and cut down that net. You play to win, and that's what we want to do."
The Bobcats exorcised their demon from last March on Sunday, using a 22-4 second half run to vanquish defending champion Iona to punch their ticket to yet another conference final, and in doing so, an old motivational tactic was recycled.
"As freshmen, we lost to Marist in that championship game, and we had that picture," Carly Fabbri explained, referencing the loss to the Red Foxes in Quinnipiac's first MAAC season. "Every time we took the court for practice or a game, we saw that, and that was the motivation. It led to a championship year, so Adily (Martucci) and I got together and we did the same thing. We had a picture of Iona winning it, and it's fueled us throughout the year."
Before the tournament, Tricia Fabbri spoke of her team's experience in pressure situations and the core of her team having been to multiple conference championships, citing that as a potential boon for the Bobcats' chances at the Times Union Center. Through two games, a close call against Canisius where the Bobcats needed clutch shots to fall late to escape a potential upset, and Sunday's comeback over Iona, the familiarity with the moment they find themselves in has certainly proven more than beneficial.
"I can't speak enough about experience at this point in time and about just being in these games and expecting to be in these games, and wanting to be in these games," she said with regard to how well it has served Quinnipiac. "For us, it's about winning championships, it's about NCAA Tournaments, it's about the next step in the program. We're up here moving forward, and that's what most important for all of us involved in this process and this season."