Video: Dreams come true for Quinnipiac, set to take on South Carolina in Sweet 16
2017 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16, Stockton Region
#12 Quinnipiac Bobcats (29-6, 17-3 MAAC) vs. #1 South Carolina Gamecocks (29-4, 14-2 SEC)
Date: Saturday, March 25, 2017, 1:00 p.m. (PT) / 4:00 p.m. (ET)
Location: Stockton Arena, Stockton, California
Series: First meeting between the teams
THE MODERATOR: Please welcome Quinnipiac Bobcats head coach, Tricia Fabbri.
The Bobcats defeated Marquette 68-65 in the opening round becoming one of 21 No. 12 seeds of all time to win their first game. In the second round they beat Miami 85-78 to become the fourth-ever 12-seed to defeat a 5-seed. Quinnipiac is also the first team since 2014 to reach the round of 16 as a 12-seed.
First we’ll have an opening statement from Coach Fabbri.
TRICIA FABBRI: Thank you. Well, I can say, you know, on the bus ride over, thinking to myself, and I would imagine my players, as well, that at some point, you watch the Sweet 16 on TV, and you dream that one day, you’re playing in that game in this tournament.
I know that certainly was my dream a long time ago, and for that dream to become a reality, and to make this possible, this opportunity possible, to be playing in the Sweet 16, we’re really excited to be here. We’re really excited with the opportunity to play against South Carolina in the Sweet 16.
Q. Geno is wearing a shirt — did you see that? Did you hear about this today?
TRICIA FABBRI: I did.
Q. What does that mean to you?
TRICIA FABBRI: Well, first of all, Geno has been such a mentor for me going way back. He helped me in this process, get a job at Quinnipiac a long, long time ago, 22 years ago. But really just a gold standard, a great guy, and then he was so excited. He reached out as soon as we won, and so complimentary of what we were able to accomplish over the weekend.
The fact that he is wearing our shirt in support of our team in this tournament at this time, just so thankful, and very grateful for his support and UCONN women’s basketball’s support of Quinnipiac’s women’s basketball, and the two teams in Connecticut here representing women’s basketball in the Sweet 16.
Q. You’ve been here for 22 years now, and to work all that way to getting a Sweet 16 and to do it with your daughter on the roster, what experience has that been for the two of you?
TRICIA FABBRI: The year and the team and the players and the coaches that we have shared it with, the administration, the university, has been special and historic. And to share that with your daughter, who is, you know, obviously helped us so much this year.
You know, when you recruit players, you hope that, you know, you get what you think you’re going to get out of them. But knowing Carly, and knowing my daughter, I had the advantage of knowing what I was getting when she said yes to Quinnipiac.
Q. What’s it like for you to coach against Coach Staley, and what concerns you most about her team?
TRICIA FABBRI: My goodness. I don’t think there’s enough time in this press conference to run through the challenges that we’re going to see tomorrow from Coach Staley and her team.
They are so talented. They are an elite program. You just start with the fact that the experience that they have here in this game and in this round, is first and foremost. The talent that they possess: From Wilson all the way down, right down the roster; how they score points. And really what’s most impressive to the staff, as we have prepared, as we continue to prepare our team, is really how they defend. I think they are a really outstanding defensive ballclub.
So we have our hands full all day tomorrow.
Q. With Morgan and Adily there, their name cards up here, Adily fifth-year red-shirt and Morgan a senior, how great is it to see all their hard work and contributions pay off with this right here?
TRICIA FABBRI: Ultimately, this answer, it sounds like we’re not done — we still have another game. But when you already know that you have helped your team and program make history, it has to feel so satisfying when you Wake up that you have left and made and helped this program be better than when you came in. It’s an incredible feeling for them, as it is for us.
Q. For people that don’t know that much about your team, can you explain what makes Quinnipiac go the way it does, and how did you guys get here?
TRICIA FABBRI: My goodness. This year, we have been a really good defensive team. We have definitely identified ourselves, getting back and playing really hard-nosed, sound rules, shutting down other teams, their strengths, what they want to do.
But ultimately our mentality has been one about grit and finding ways and being unselfish and being a balanced team, and on any given night, we have had a player find a way to make plays and put the ball in the basket. We have had balance. We have had unselfishness, but we have talent. We play together, and our strength is in team.
Q. Last year when this team lost in the MAC Tournament, Maria Napolitano was the only student that graduated and moved on. How much do you think that loss has been fueling extra motivation to get to this point?
TRICIA FABBRI: I think that whenever you come up just a little bit short that, is always a fire in the belly that never goes away, and it definitely motivated us all throughout the summer into the spring, into the season, and into everything that is still going on in this tournament for sure.
Q. With the amount of hoopla going around campus about this team and the excitement of being the underdog throughout this tournament, how do you keep this team focused and let them know you still have another game to play?
TRICIA FABBRI: Because they do that themselves. Again, this is a very motivated group. They are excited with everything that has transpired in one week but they are extremely grounded because of Morgan, Adily, the experience that we have, the expectation that we have to be here; the expectation to have success in the NCAA; to attain that, that’s an expectation that they wanted.
So to be here and still have business on hand, it’s very grounding, and they are task oriented and a goal-oriented group in doing it together. They are enjoying the moment, but they are very much about taking care of business and the business trip at hand and being able to stay focused at the task at hand. They have been extremely grounded through getting on the plane yesterday to being out — to being here for 24 hours.
Q. You guys might be known to some as the smaller town community team from Connecticut, but you have players from four different countries. People might not know that. What kind of dynamic does that add to the team in terms of the culture and how they interact with one another?
TRICIA FABBRI: Again, because I think we have such a close-knit — we have the literal piece of family, and that has been all encompassing of, again, tells a little bit of something of who we are; that that’s what makes us who we are.
And even though we have come from all areas from the globe, that we are able to really become one unique family, from the international parts of the world, from Latvia, Ireland, Canada, to while we’re in Connecticut and out in Arizona and Wisconsin, our basketball family, when they were going through this entire process, they found the attraction in each other and what we were trying to achieve and go forward with with this program.
Getting to the Sweet 16, has been stated with these young ladies on this roster, and that drew them to being a part of and making history. That’s the dynamic; that’s us being very progressive and that’s something that they were excited to achieve here. That’s something that had not been done before, but the attraction to helping us achieve more, was the real, you know — I guess, you know, tradition kind of — the university in and of itself is a very progressive and dynamic culture. And I think the basketball emulates what the university is in that we are always progressive in moving forward in education.
That’s how the basketball, how they were; we weren’t set. We’re young in this Division I world of athletics and we wanted to go forward and be dynamic and unique in our own approach and I think that was really attractive to everybody, regardless of where they were from; that they found a thread that was going to bind them together through basketball.
Q. Wilson is such a dominant player down low. What are you going to do to slow her down?
TRICIA FABBRI: We play tomorrow. I think Coach may have someone watching this press conference. So I can’t let the — you know, there’s a plan in place. We’re going to work extremely hard to make it difficult to have them throw in with ease and do our best to limit touches as best we can.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Coach Fabbri, and best of luck tomorrow.
Q. Adily, one of the things that South Carolina has is a lot of length. I think they have five players at 6-2 or above. How do you try to counter that, knowing that can be difficult to place?
ADILY MARTUCCI: Definitely a lot of help defense with that. Also boxing out, since they are so much taller than us, we’ve really got to concentrate on getting boards and just pushing them out of the paint.
Q. For all of three of you, can you talk about the opportunity that you have in front of you, the confidence that you have leading up to this point and how confident are you going into tomorrow’s game?
JEN FAY: I mean, I think coming off of obviously two huge wins, is going to make us more confident than ever, and we know this game is probably going to be even harder than the first two. But there’s no doubt in our mind that we can pull off another upset.
ADILY MARTUCCI: Just agreeing with Jen. Every game you build more and more confidence after every win. This opportunity, it’s amazing. I really can’t put it into words because it’s just unreal, the opportunity in front of us.
MORGAN MANZ: I think we are really excited to be here, and just the opportunity at hand, you know, we’re really grateful for it and we’re going to leave it all out on the floor. However long it takes, we’ll hopefully get another upset.
Q. In every situation, except the round of 32, you’ve been able to go to Tricia because she’s been in every situation, and she hasn’t been in this situation as a coach. How have you handled that? You guys are really the ones that have as much experience in this situation as she does.
JEN FAY: We’re all in this together, so I mean, just because she — none of us have ever been in this experience before. So I think we’re all going to go through it together, the ups and the downs, and just work our way through.
ADILY MARTUCCI: The biggest thing is trust; trust that they will give us a game plan, and them trusting in us to execute that game plan.
Q. Did you see this photo of Geno in your shirt today?
ADILY MARTUCCI: Yeah, I did.
Q. And maybe if any of you can reflect on how much that means to you.
ADILY MARTUCCI: It’s awesome. Just the support we’ve had in general, and then especially from him and his team. Just being Connecticut teams in general, the support is amazing. I mean, he’s a great coach, and the spotlight is always on him; a lot of people saw that. And it’s just amazing, the support. We really appreciate it.
Q. Coach Fabbri has complimented you a lot throughout this year, and your leadership to this team. What can you say about her as a coach and how she’s helped you throughout your five years here with the program?
ADILY MARTUCCI: You know, our success starts from the top and trickles its way down, and she is the head of this team. And I look up to her as a role model for a leader. And it all starts with her to be honest, and, you know, she’s one of my biggest models.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, ladies, and good luck tomorrow.