Women’s Baaketball Loses to Syracuse


Fordham huddles as a team during Saturday’s loss to Syracuse. (Courtesy of Fordham Athletics)

By Jack McLoone

Sometimes — most times, in fact — Goliath wins. And so did Syracuse in the first round of the NCAA Tournament over Fordham, 70-49. The Rams, a 14-seed, put up a strong fight against the nationally-ranked four-seed Orange but ultimately couldn’t keep pace.

The Orange ran out to a quick 8-3 lead in first quarter, but the Rams finished the quarter on a 12-6 run to take a 15-14 lead into the quarter. In the middle of the quarter, both sides flashed their defensive prowess, with the Rams’ hounding man-to-man and the Orange’s zone keeping either side from scoring for over three minutes.

Fitting for what would be her final game, the Rams first took the lead when one of their three seniors, guard Lauren Holden, hit a three from the right wing to give the Rams the 13-10 lead.

But all the positives from the Fordham side were wiped away almost instantly in the start of the second quarter. Syracuse’s Gabrielle Cooper hit a three 18 seconds into the quarter to put the Orange up 17-15. The Rams ultimately started the quarter with a 14-0 run and never trailed again.

Though that wasn’t for the Rams’ lack of trying. After heading into halftime down 10, 38-28, the Rams tried to get back to what drove them all season: defense. And it worked to some degree, as the team held Syracuse to just 13 points in the quarter — not allowing a single three.

However, the defensive effort seemed to exhaust the Rams, who couldn’t seem to score, especially when that often would mean trying to weave through the trees in the interior of the Syracuse zone. While the team hit four threes and a layup to outscore the Orange 15-13 in the quarter –– often bringing the Syracuse lead back to single digits –– the Rams missed 13 other attempts, including seven threes, many of them forced.

By the fourth quarter, David was spent, and the Rams simply couldn’t catch their Goliath, getting outscored 19-7 in the final quarter.

With 1:28 left, head coach Stephanie Gaitley subbed out her two starting seniors, Holden and forward Mary Goulding, who shared a long embrace on the sideline of their final collegiate game. Gaitley also checked in graduate student Alexa Giuliano before she too was checked out for a hug with Gaitley.

The Rams understandably struggled offensively all game, shooting just 28.6 percent from the field, including just 29.4 percent from three.

Surprisingly, the Rams’ leading scorer was freshman forward Kaitlyn Downey, who scored 15 points on 6-12 shooting, including 3-6 from three. Fordham’s leading rebounder — and the rebound leader for the game — was Goulding, who picked up 12 in her final game in maroon. She also had eight points. It was a fitting pair, as Downey will have to take a big step forward to replace Goulding as the team’s prominent player inside next season.

Holden finished with three rebounds, three assists and nine points — all from threes —  in her final game.

Most damningly on the offensive side for Fordham was redshirt junior guard Bre Cavanaugh’s nine points on just 2-10 shooting from the field. She paced the Rams with 17.3 points per game this season, earning First Team All-A-10 honors (along with Goulding), but struggled with efficiency all season and was smothered by the Syracuse defense.

While steps forward as a program always look better in hindsight, a loss to end your season will hurt whether it comes in the first round of the tournament or the championship game. This was one of the best women’s basketball teams in Fordham’s history, the first to win the A-10 regular season championship and just the third to make it to the NCAA Tournament.

Being the David is never fun, and this loss will probably always sting. But looking back, these Rams should be proud to have been facing Goliath at all.