Fordham women’s hoops faces California in NCAA opener

Guard Erin Rooney and Fordham University earned a No. 10 seed and face No. 7 Cal in the NCAA tournament this weekend.
Fordham University

Abigail Corning still couldn’t believe she was sitting in Rose Hill Gymnasium with her teammates, coaches as hundreds of fans waiting to see who and where Fordham University would be playing in the NCAA tournament.

“It’s really a dream come true honestly,” the senior guard said.

Rams women’s basketball coach Stephanie Gaitley saw her team living on cloud nine for most of last week after capturing the school’s first even Atlantic-10 tournament title and just its second berth in the field of 64.

“Last week the kids were kind of floating the entire practice.” Gaitley said. “They were so excited.”

It took until the final bracket was revealed, but the good feelings continued when the Rams were given a No. 10 seed. They face No. 7 California out of the Pac 12, a Final Four team last season, in the opening round at 4 p.m. on March 22 in Waco, Texas. A victory would likely mean a matchup with No. 2 Baylor in the second round. Having an opponent made things very real for Corning, the Atlantic-10 tournament MVP.

“I think it finally hit us today when our name popped up on the screen,” she said. “It was like, ‘Yep it’s not a dream anymore.’”

Fordham reached the tournament in Gaitley’s third season in the Bronx. The year before she took over, the Rams won just 12 games. They reached the conference title game last season and enter the NCAA tournament 25-7 overall this year behind Corning, Erin Rooney and Hannah Missry. Gaitley, who has led multiple programs to the Big Dance, understands the importance of the players getting a chance to get at taste of what it is like.

“Part of the journey of trying to build a program is getting to this point because you have to get to this point to understand the excitement of it to know that you never want to not feel this way,” Gaitley said.

Corning has seen the excitement grow around the program this season. People have come up to her and her teammates to congratulate them on the title. If the Rams want to add an NCAA tournament victory to its resume it will need to go through an experienced Cal team that went 21-9 this season and is led by 6-foot-3 forward Reshanda Grey. The Golden Bears have lost two straight after a seven consecutive wins.

Fordham is looking forward to seeing how it stacks up with the country’s top teams.

“It will be fun to see how the A-10 can match up with big conferences like that,” Corning said. “Anything can happen. We just want to make some noise.”

Reach reporter Joseph Staszewski at Follow him on twitter @cng_staszewski.

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