Abigail Corning got off the bus, walked through screaming cheerleaders and supporters our side Rose Hill Gym right for the Fordham University victory bell. The senior was ready to experience her second first of the day, both of which she waited four years for.
Corning helped lead the Rams’ women’s basketball to the program’s first Atlantic-10 title with a 63-51 win over Dayton in the championship game in Richmond Va. last Sunday afternoon. She made sure she was the first to ring the victory bell. Corning watched he program, which was winless six years ago, improve from 12 wins her freshmen year to a conference title.
“I honestly hopped up by myself,” Corning said. “I didn’t need any help, so much adrenaline. It’s our first time ringing the victory bell and it’s definitely a sweet one.”
She was named the tournament most valuable player after scoring 12 points and 10 rebounds in the title game. Erin Rooney has 13 points and 13 boards and Emily Tapio added her fifth double-double in the last eight games with 10 points and 12 rebounds. Third-year Fordham head coach Stephanie Gaitley, wearing the cut down net around her neck, expressed happiness in Corning being recognized after going without an honor last season.
“To hear my name called and all the hard work and all the dreaming and perseverance finally pay off, its really exciting,” Corning said.
The Fordham erased the memory of losing to St. Joseph’s in last year’s final and completed the program’s turnaround quicker than Gaitley expected. The Rams are 25-7 and headed to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1994.
“You can’t really put into words losing a championship by one point [last year],” Rooney said. “This whole year has just been he road to getting back there.”
To do so Fordham had to beat three teams it lost to during the regular season. It took down Duquesne, St. Bonaventure and top-seeded Dayton. The Rams went up 56-47 on a Samantha Clark runner with just over seven minutes left in the final. Fordham went cold over the final four minutes, but continued its stellar defensive effort. Dayton got as close as 56-51 with less than four minutes to play. The Rams got to celebrate twice, on the court and back home outside Rose Hill Gymnasium.
“These are lifetime memories that you’ll never forget,” Gaitley said. “You have to soak them up and enjoy every minute.”
Fordham will find out what team it plays in the NCAA tournament during the selection show on March 17. Until then it’s going to enjoy its accomplishments.
“It’s hard to grasp what the emotions are like,” Corning said. “We are enjoying it. We are going to enjoy it tonight and through the week, then next week decide where we are going for NCAAs.”