Fordham Women’s Basketball Debrief: The End of an Era


Fordham will say goodbye to key players as the 2022-23 season ends. (Courtesy of Fordham Athletics)

The 2022-23 Fordham Women’s Basketball season was the first under interim head coach Candice Green. It saw their first postseason win in five years. It’s the first time in the Atlantic 10 era that the team has had two players named First Team All-Conference as well as the first time they’ve boasted the top two scorers in the conference. But among all these wonderful firsts is one last sendoff for one of the most talented units we’ve ever seen and a bittersweet goodbye to a veteran core that has forever left its mark on the program.

This season marked the last for graduate students Kaitlyn Downey, Meg Jonassen, Asiah Dingle and Jada Dapaa. Seniors Anna DeWolfe and Sarah Karpell possess an extra year of collegiate eligibility, but it’s unknown at this time if they will spend that final year with the Fordham Rams.
It’s not just a large veteran core — it’s a star studded one. DeWolfe, Downey and Dingle are likely all bound for the Fordham Hall of Fame. DeWolfe’s 1,883 points puts her third all-time, and she holds the second-most three pointers made in program history. As an elite scorer, DeWolfe had the ability to make any shot at any time.

Heaving a buzzer beater three to upset the University of Rhode Island in overtime, DeWolfe not only made ESPN’s SportsCenter but was highlighted on Scott Van Pelt’s “Best Thing I Saw Today.”

Downey’s five-year career puts her in the all-time lead for games started with 139 and one shy of the games played record with 145. Mind you, that’s 145 games played consecutively — she never missed a contest. On top of that, she’s fifth in rebounds, 10th in blocks and 12th in points. Alongside Jonassen, the two are the last remaining members from Fordham’s last conference championship in 2019.

Dingle may have only spent two years at Fordham, but her impact over that two-year stretch is about as good as you can get. Dingle had an incredible final season, leading the A-10 in both scoring and being named A-10 Co-Defensive Player of the Year, the first Ram to win the award.

She set the Fordham single season steals record with 111 and ranked third in all of Division I basketball in steals per game (3.5). She’s fifth all-time in scoring average and will easily go down as the most prolific pick-pocketer in Rams history. In just two seasons, her 177 steals ranks sixth all-time. Everyone else in the top ten played at least four seasons with Fordham.

Jonassen has been a staple in the Rams lineup for the last half decade, ranking seventh in program history in games played, and was a force on the offensive glass. Karpell was praised by the coaching staff as one of the smartest players they’ve ever met, mixing elite court vision with a relentless drive to the net to create offensive chances both as a scorer and a facilitator.

Dapaa elected to spend her final year of eligibility at Fordham, immediately taking over as a captain. Dapaa was both a voice in the locker room and force on the court, leading the team in double doubles and becoming a matchup problem for the opposition with her dynamic combination of strength and athleticism.

Fordham finished the year with a 19-13 record, earning the four seed and a double bye in the A-10 tournament before a disappointing quarter finals loss to the University of Richmond. Earning an at-large bid in the WNIT, the Rams defeated Drexel University in the opening round before falling to a Columbia University team ranked 47th in the NET rankings in a back and forth affair.

The Columbia game was, in many ways, a fitting end to the season. Fordham entered as massive underdogs with Columbia narrowly missing an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. Despite this massive gap, the Rams hung right with them, holding a five-point lead with two and a half minutes left in the fourth, before falling behind with 19 seconds left.

This game was no outlier. Fordham’s point margin against teams ranked in the Top 100 of the NET rankings was an astonishingly low -2.6. Simply put, the Rams battled against the toughest opponents their schedule had to offer.

Against consensus #2 overall WNBA draft pick Diamond Miller and #17 ranked University of Maryland, Fordham fell by just seven points, even holding a one-point lead in the late stages of the third quarter. Maryland would go on to reach the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament before falling to the undefeated University of South Carolina.

Against a highly ranked Princeton University team that reached the Round of 32, the Rams fell by just three points. With Columbia advancing to the Final Four of the WNIT, the Rams have hung in against multiple teams that went on to make deep postseason runs. All in all, it’s a lingering reminder of how much potential this team possessed.

With a large veteran core set to depart after the season, the Rams were always going to have to prepare for a jarring change. It just so happened that change came earlier than expected. Former head coach Stephanie Gaitley, the all-time wins leader and the winner of two A-10 championships, was let go in the summer prior to the start of the season. Suddenly, a year that was supposed to feel very familiar was anything but.

In stepped interim head coach Candice Green. Serving as an assistant coach since the 2020 season, Green took over the reigns for a team looking to make one final run with its talented starting core.

A transformation was immediately noticeable, as Green turned Fordham from a defense-oriented team into an offense that ranked top 50 in the nation. Their scoring offense jumped from 62.2 points per game in 2022 to 72.3 in 2023, the second-highest season average in program history.

Like many things surrounding the Rams next year, Green’s future remains uncertain. With the interim coaching tag placed on her, Fordham, by NCAA rule, has to open the position up and conduct a fair search. Many of the players have rallied behind her, advocating for Green’s return. Junior Maranda Nyborg took to Twitter, issuing a statement on behalf of the team.

“Coach Candice is who we want back as our head coach. We ALL have her back and are willing to do whatever it takes to get her rehired. She made us love the game again, and continued our success in the A-10 in just one year. The future is bright with Candice in charge.”

The tweet was quote tweeted by numerous players, all adding their support for Green’s return. It’s tough to argue against the impact Green had. Dingle raised her scoring average from 14.7 in her inaugural season with the Rams to an A-10 leading 19.2 under her guidance. The freedom to run in transition allowed Dingle and DeWolfe to take advantage of their athleticism and flourish, as the pair finished as the top two scorers in the A-10.

But Green’s impact was even stronger when it came to developing players. After starting just three games and averaging 1.0 points per game last year, Karpell started every game for the Rams, posting a career high in points per game (4.7) and assists per game (3.2). Becoming a legitimate offensive weapon, Karpell exploded for a career high 15 points on opening day before topping it later in the season with an 18-point performance against Duquesne University.

Junior Matilda Flood saw an increased role, becoming the top player off the bench for the Rams. Developing into one of the strongest and most complete defensive players in the rotation, Flood was invaluable particularly after the season-ending injury to Jonassen. Finally, sophomore Colleen McQuillen went from a limited bench role last year to playing in all but one contest, shining with her ability to shoot from beyond the arc, and scoring a career high 11 points in the Rams’ playoff win against Drexel.

With so much up in the air, it’s impossible to say what this Fordham Rams team will look like next year. But one thing is certain: We witnessed one of the most talented groups in Fordham history, and it was truly a privilege to do so.