I’ll say it now to get it out of the way. This could be a little premature.
But on Saturday afternoon, we might have seen the final chapter in the matchup between two of the most accomplished coaches in MAAC history.
Brian Giorgis and Tricia Fabbri haven’t been adversaries for very long in the scope of their decorated careers—this is their 10th season competing against one another—but over that time, their respective programs have been the gold standard of MAAC women’s basketball.
In the last two weeks, there has been plenty of goodwill between the two coaches. It started in Poughkeepsie when Giorgis thoughtfully presented Fabbri with some sports memorabilia, including a signed trading card of her brother, who played quarterback at Penn State.
Fabbri presented Giorgis with a gift before Marist’s 73-45 loss in Hamden on Saturday.
But don’t let that distract you from the fact that this is the biggest rivalry in MAAC women’s basketball. Despite all the goodwill, the coaches still want nothing less than to beat one another.
Since the Bobcats joined the MAAC from the NEC ahead of the 2013-14 season, either Quinnipiac or Marist has captured the conference’s automatic bid all but twice in the seasons that were played to completion.
That rather strange-sounding caveat is, of course, because of the COVID-19 pandemic that shut things down in March 2020. In that season, the Red Foxes were 26-4 and looked the part of a team that could trouble a higher-seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Last season was the first time that neither the Red Foxes nor the Bobcats failed to win at least a share of the regular-season title.
|Regular-Season Winner||MAAC Tournament Winner|
|2020||Marist, Rider||Tournament Canceled|
To use a metaphor from The Great Gatsby, Marist was very much the old money of the MAAC when Quinnipiac joined the league. From 2004 to 2014, Giorgis’ team won the regular season title every season and only failed to win the MAAC Tournament once (2005).
In those 10 seasons, the Red Foxes combined to lose just 19 games. If you need some context, Marist has lost 20 MAAC games in the last season-and-a-half.
Enter Quinnipiac, the new money. The Bobcats had only been playing Division I sports for 15 years when they joined the MAAC, not exactly a long time in the grand scheme of things. They timed their arrival well, winning the NEC in their final go-around.
Since joining the MAAC, the Bobcats have the better overall and league records. Ten years after Marist made the Sweet 16, Quinnipiac became the second MAAC team to make it that far.
At the time, with Marist looking untouchable at the top of the league, it seemed like Quinnipiac would first have to establish itself in the MAAC before it could think about toppling the Red Foxes.
As hindsight tells us, it didn’t take very long. The Bobcats have a 17-7 record against Marist since coming into the MAAC and are the only MAAC program to have a winning all-time record against the Red Foxes. But just looking at the record doesn’t tell the entire story. There have been ebbs and flows and close games and blowouts.
I wrote about this topic back in 2020, saying that Marist needed to breathe some life into this rivalry. Three years later, the same may be true.
But for now, a look at the games that have come to define the Marist-Quinnipiac and/or the Giorgis-Fabbri rivalry.
Mar. 10, 2014: Marist 70, Quinnipiac 66 – MAAC Championship game
It turned out that the Bobcats didn’t have much trouble adjusting to life in the MAAC. Quinnipiac went 14-6, but couldn’t take either game from the Red Foxes in the regular season.
As fate would have it, they met for a third time (as would become a custom) in the MAAC title game. Early on, it looked like the Bobcats would get the win when it mattered most, building a 35-18 lead 15 minutes into the game.
Marist wasn’t going to roll over and worked its way back into the game, finally grabbing the lead with just inside six minutes remaining. It was tight down the stretch, but Tori Jarosz came up with a three-point play to put the Red Foxes up 67-64 with 1:43 to play. From there, Marist was able to hang on down the stretch.
Mar. 9, 2015: Quinnipiac 72, Marist 61 – MAAC Championship game
The Bobcats flipped the script the following season, brushing Marist aside twice in the regular season before doing the same in the rematch of the title game from the year before.
The game was close into the second half, but the Bobcats, who finished the season 31-4 and a perfect 20-0 in MAAC play, pulled away for good and didn’t have to sweat down the stretch.
There was a new team to beat at the top of the league.
Mar. 11, 2019: Quinnipiac 81, Marist 51 – MAAC Championship game
Four years and many Quinnipiac wins later, the teams found themselves matched up in the MAAC Championship game for the fourth time in six years.
In the years since the 2015 meeting, Marist only made it back to the MAAC title game once, losing to, you guessed it, the Bobcats. The Red Foxes were building back toward their title-winning ways, but against another ultra-talented Quinnipiac team, they arrived a year too soon.
Marist led 20-18 after the first quarter, but the Bobcats were too much. Quinnipiac took a nine-point lead into the half and never looked back. After this latest lopsided Bobcats win, it was nine victories in a row for Fabbri’s team.
The rivalry was in desperate need of some life.
Jan. 23, 2020: Marist 73, Quinnipiac 60
After nine straight losses, the Red Foxes finally breathed some life back into the rivalry with a double-digit win at McCann. In the middle of its best season since 2013-14, Marist skated past Quinnipiac to improve to 13-3 on the season.
Alana Gilmer starred with 30 points on 14-for-25 shooting as the Red Foxes took an important step toward establishing themselves as the best team in the MAAC that season.
Marist led for the entire second half and though Quinnipiac kept things interesting, a late 7-0 helped push the hosts over the top. The Red Foxes would complete the season sweep on the road a few weeks later.
Feb. 4, 2023: Quinnipiac 73, Marist 45
If this was the final chapter in the Giorgis-Fabbri rivalry, it was a very anticlimactic one. The Red Foxes never led and the much more balanced Bobcats used a big second half to pull away.
Marist shot just 25 percent and once again fell victim to offensive woes that have troubled the program for the last two seasons. For Quinnipiac, it was the team’s sixth-consecutive win and moved the Bobcats into second place in the conference standings.
For Fabbri, it was career win No. 497.
It all comes down to two great programs built by two great coaches.
Unless the teams meet in March, which is possible given how the standings look heading into this week of play, the next time these rivals get together, things will be different.
It will still be Marist against Quinnipiac. The red and white against the blue and gold. There just might be one less legendary coach roaming the sidelines.
Edited by Ricardo Martinez and Luke Sassa
Photo from Marist Athletics