Fairfield tied La Salle as the second MAAC team to complete a full season with only one loss, and now holds the second longest MAAC winning streak with 26 wins in a row. Fairfield is the second MAAC team to go 20-0 in conference play and for the first time in program history, Fairfield Women’s Basketball collected a top 25 AP Poll national ranking. 

Photo courtesy of @fairfieldwbb Instagram)

Aside from conference recognition, the Stags have proven themselves to be national contenders as well. With 20 wins, Fairfield Women’s Basketball currently has the most conference wins nationally, along with the second longest winning streak in the nation. 

This year’s 2024 Hercules Tires MAAC Basketball Championship will kick off tomorrow, March 12, in Atlantic City, New Jersey as the Stags hope to bring home another championship and pave their way towards the NCAA tournament. 

Just two years ago, the Stags brought home their first MAAC championship in over 20 years. Ultimately, the team’s run ended in the first round of March Madness in a faceoff against the Texas Longhorns but the team shattered records under the direction of former Coach Joe Frager in his final season leading the Stags. 

Only two years later, Coach Carly Thibault-DuDonis has continued to build the team’s momentum as the Stags are once again heading to Atlantic City as regular season champions. She was also recently named MAAC Coach of the Year recognizing her contribution to the program’s run. 

Fairfield Women’s basketball has seen a historic season earning national recognition and new rankings. 

Heading into the MAAC Championship, Thibault-DuDonis acknowledged that while there’s definitely pressure involved, the team has big goals and is “excited for the challenge.” 

Coach Carly attributed the team’s growing success to the roster’s great depth. She explained how the team’s quick offensive play makes it easy to spread the floor and play 9-10 every game. 

Stags Women’s Basketball winning regular season champions (Photo courtesy of @fairfieldwbb Instagram)

Thibault-DuDonis believes the group’s victories have as much to do with team comradery as it does with player accomplishment and skill. 

She explained, “It starts with the culture that we’ve built with the returners and the newbies– they all really care about each other and put each other first.” 

Thibault-DuDonis referenced Guard Janelle Brown ‘24 when emphasizing the value in the returning players’ experience and outlook, having accomplished the feat of a MAAC championship two seasons ago. She noted how healthy the mix of new and returning players has been. 

Another asset for the Stags has been Meghan Andersen ‘27 who has been named MAAC rookie of the week 10 times this season. Her tenth title has her tied for the third most voted rookie in a season within the conference’s history. 

Coach Carly responded to Andersen’s achievements commenting, “Meg is special in a lot of different ways. She is really humble, which ties back to the culture.” 

Thibault-DuDonis explained how Andersen takes her time and really cares about the team’s success when describing the student’s contributions to the team. 

Sharing her excitement with The Rearview, not only for the large attention directed at the team’s groundbreaking records, but at the growing attention towards women’s basketball in general, Coach Carly described her consistent love of basketball and passion for the game through her journey from player, to recruiting director, to assistant coach and now Fairfield’s head coach. 

As someone with lots of love for the game, Thibault-DuDonis knew she wasn’t ready to be out of the gym after graduating college so she pursued a career in coaching. However, she wasn’t aware of all the changes the sport would undergo when she first became interested in the sport as a child. 

Thibault-DuDonis described how great it has been to watch the development of women’s basketball throughout the years and see it evolve.

And if one thing is for certain, the sport has evolved! In recent years collegiate players such as Caitlin Clark, Angel Reese and Paige Beukers have skyrocketed the popularity of women’s basketball, bringing their excellence to the forefront of mainstream sport conversations. 

This explosion of women’s basketball’s cultural impact has grown alongside their coverage and viewership. Last March Madness, the women’s tournament broke records and showed it is exactly what audiences want to see more of. 

The 2023 Women’s March Madness Championship game was the most viewed Collegiate WBB game to date, the first Championship match up broadcasted on a major TV network since 1995 and as of then, the largest streamed sporting event of any kind on ESPN+ to date. 

Clark has had a huge impact on the sport’s increasing recognition. 

The beloved player from Iowa State has been slashing records all season, keeping wide audiences engaged. Some of these stats include breaking the NCAA all time scoring record just last week. 

Many of her scoring moments have gone viral on social media capturing the hearts of fans all over the country. However this season will be her last as she recently submitted her name for the WNBA draft. Many predict her impact on the interest of women’s basketball will carry over during her WNBA career and are excited to continue to follow her game during this shift. 

Coach Carly recognized Clark’s effect on the game in our conversation. She noted that helping build strong women is “equally as impactful as winning games” and is excited players are finally being valued for what they can bring to the NCAA. 

“No doubt in my mind, Caitlin will have a great career,” said Thibault-DuDonis. 

Regardless of her impact on the game, Coach Carly spoke to how meaningful it is to watch an athlete of her caliber lead a career at home.  

She admitted there is room for equity to improve but sees this period as a step in the right direction and explained the significance of women’s teams adding profit to their universities, going to the tournament, bringing back money and being marketed accordingly. 

Later in the conversation, Coach Carly recounted her father coaching for the NBA and switching to coaching for the WNBA during her childhood. 

She recalled these moments being her first real exposure to crowds supporting professional women’s basketball, and getting to see women coaches as well. This anecdote reminded her of the positive representation brought by social media since accessing representation of professional women’s sports was difficult for her when she was young. 

Coach Carly noted the enthusiasm towards larger crowds and coverage saying, “Now you’ve got 8,000-10,000 [viewers] at games across the country, which you didn’t see 10 years ago.”

Catch the Stags in their first championship appearance on March 13th at 1p.m. for the MAAC quarterfinal game. 

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