Rams Fall in WNIT Second Round in Queens


With many returning players and a strong incoming class, the Rams are excited for next season.
With many returning players and a strong incoming class, the Rams are excited for next season.

By Matt Rosenfeld

Last season, the Fordham women’s basketball team’s season ended on March 22, over 1,600 miles away from Rose Hill. It was a down-to-the-wire 64-63 loss to No. 7 seed California in the NCAA Tournament’s first round in Waco, Texas.

On March 22, this year’s version of the same team saw their season come to an end. This time, however, the game was just 15 miles from home.

Fordham’s 2014-2015 campaign ended in a 77-63 loss at St. John’s in the second round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.

After defeating Central Connecticut State University at home on March 19 by a score of 70-67, the Rams secured a date with city rival St. John’s.

The two teams raced out to a quick start, as four early points from graduate student Tiffany Ruffin put Fordham up 10-9 just four and a half minutes into Sunday afternoon’s contest. A three pointer from sophomore Hannah Missry extended the lead to four for Fordham just a minute later, but that’s when the Red Storm put their foot in the ground.

St. John’s ripped off a 9-0 over the next two minutes to take an 18-13 lead. Fordham did not let it get out of hand, as the Rams clawed back to a one point deficit, 24-23 with seven minutes to play in the first half. Unfortunately for head coach Stephanie Gaitley’s squad, another St. John’s run, this time to the tune of 10-2, saw the Red Storm take a nine point lead with 3:22 left.

A Missry three and a jumper from senior captain Emily Tapio brought the Fordham deficit to 38-32 heading into the break.

The bucket going into halftime capped off a terrific first half for Tapio, who was a perfect five for five from the field, scoring 10 points and grabbing three rebounds in the half. Unfortunately for Fordham, St. John’s junior guard Aliyyah Handford scored 19 points to lead St. John’s.

Tapio continued her success immediately starting the second half. The forward from Brewster, New York scored the first four points of the half, cutting St. John’s advantage to just two. The Red Storm eventually extended their lead to eight with 10 minutes left to play, leaving the Rams staring the end of their season straight in the eye.

Staying true to form, Fordham fought back, cutting the lead to six multiple times. However, they were never able to get enough stops to cut into the deficit significantly. As the second half wore on, the Fordham defense wore out. The Red Storm increased their lead to 14 with fewer than five minutes to play as a combination of missed shots and turnovers prevented Fordham from making a serious run.

“They wore us down,” Gaitley said. “We tried to mix up defenses, and we haven’t tried to do that all year. We were able to match them on offensively for a certain part, and then once we gave up some points and struggled on the offensive end, had a couple turnovers, they kind of ran with it.”

Fordham was not able to cut the lead to less than 13 as the time expired, and St. John’s moved on to the third round of the WNIT to face Villanova.

As for the Rams, they closed the door on a third straight twenty-win season. It was also the third consecutive year the team has reached a postseason tournament. The loss also meant it was the last game for Fordham’s three seniors, Emily Tapio, Tiffany Ruffin and Taryn Durant.

The captain Tapio did not disappoint. The senior finished the season with a 19 point, four rebound performance, going eight of 10 from the field. Ruffin was not far behind in her last NCAA game, scoring 18 points, grabbing seven rebounds and dishing out five assists. Senior Taryn Durant also added two points and a rebound in nine minutes.

“There’s a lot of big shoes to fill with the senior class,” Gaitley said.

Fordham finished the year with a 21-12 record.