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Kerner leads Bobcats return to top of NEC
After a disappointing 2006-2007 campaign which culminated in a frustrating first round flame-out in the NEC tournament, the Quinnipiac women’s basketball team has officially bounced back on the map.
The Bobcats had won six straight before a 92-82 loss at Sacred Heart Saturday afternoon. They currently find themselves in second place in the conference standings.
Quinnipiac (15-3, 7-1 NEC) has registered the best start in program history and apparently regained the confidence it displayed two seasons ago, when a callow crew took the conference by storm, advancing all the way to the championship game.
But Coach Tricia Sacca-Fabbri and company are looking to take the next step this year; the Bobcats have all the tools necessary to earn a coveted NCAA tournament bid.
Where does the success start with this dangerously talented Bobcat team?
Check the backcourt.
Junior point guard Erin Kerner has once again surfaced as a player of the year candidate, after a program and fan base was collectively foiled following her season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament last season.
Kerner, who’s averaging a team-high 16 points to go with 3.8 assists per game, has been the leading force behind a well-balanced offensive attack.
The junior from Erie, Pa. etched her name in the record books during a dizzying, 62-60 win over Long Island on Jan. 19. Kerner blitzed the Blackbirds to the tune of 25 points and surpassed the 1,000-point mark in the process.
Kerner is only the sixth player to reach the century mark since Quinnipiac was elevated to the Division-I ranks.
Whether it’s burying pull-up and mid-range jump shots, dialing in from downtown, freezing opponents with a killer crossover or simply burning them with quick, strong slashes to the bucket, Kerner has been a problem for defenses all season.
Classmate Brianna Rooney has also been efficient, applying the tight defensive pressure needed to throw prolific scorers out of their groove. Rooney, who has also sprung back from her share of injuries, recently established herself as Quinnipiac’s all-time steals leader with 159.
While her birth certificate reads Brianna, anyone who knows Rooney calls her “Breezy.” Fitting, because Rooney breezed through the jump to the Division-I level, garnering multiple NEC Rookie of the Week accolades her freshman season.
The impact Sacca-Fabbri’s 2005 recruiting class has made, however, transcends Rooney and Kerner-who in not even two full seasons has skyrocketed to NEC stardom.
Three-point sniper Mandy Pennewell and guard/forward Kathleen Neyens (whose back from a one-year hiatus due to a leg injury) have both filled key roles that may help the Bobcats make a run similar to that magical 2005-2006 ride, which ended four points shy of qualifying for their first-ever NCAA tournament.
But the Bobcats wouldn’t stand at 7-1 without one of the conference’s toughest forwards in Monique Lee. For four years Lee has made her presence felt in the frontcourt, patrolling the paint and finding ways to score. A tournament-bid would be nothing short of a storybook ending for the senior from Lynn, Mass. Nicole Duperron and Courtney Kaminksi provide stability in this solid frontcourt as well.
The Bobcats endured a myriad of daunting challenges this season, scoring a win over first-class program San Diego State. When Kerner was sidelined with a one-game injury, the Bobcats took the Big East’s Seton Hall into overtime. With Kerner, a heartbreaking 69-64 loss could have been a signature victory.
Not to worry.
Kerner has been back in full throttle, and Quinnipiac will have to be at their best down the stretch to stay near the top of the NEC standings.