An Intense Court House: Busy Weekend For Fabbris And Saccas

Mom Tricia Coaches Quinnipiac; Carly At Guard For Lauralton Hall

Calling from the car late Friday afternoon on her way to Albany, the mom said this weekend is going to be crazy. Ten minutes earlier, her daughter used the same word.

"It's crazy at my house right about now," Carly Fabbri said.

"And that," Tricia Fabbri said, laughing, "is why our family got into this."

On Sunday at TD Bank Sports Center, Tricia's Quinnipiac women's basketball team, riding a 21-game winning streak, can gain its first NCAA Tournament berth with a victory over St. Francis [Pa.] in the NEC title game.

"We've built off last year's 22 wins," Tricia said. "We've got 29 and to get to 30 would be so special. We're where we've got to win the championship. We're 40 minutes from what we want and I think the program will take a big step forward."

But first, on Friday, the mom had to go recruit in Albany. Then, on Saturday, she will gather with the Fabbri and Sacca clans to travel to Mohegan Sun Arena to cheer on Carly and Lauralton Hall against Mercy in the state Class LL championship. Fabbri even adjusted Quinnipiac's practice schedule.

"So we'll be able to get the entire parenting experience with my daughter playing for her first state title," Tricia said. "Lauralton Hall has played so well. And to get together with the parents, have a fun pregame and enjoy watching the game, we're really excited."

"My mom, my dad, both sets of grandparents, aunts, uncles are coming, and then we'll all go to Quinnipiac Sunday," said Carly, a 5-6 junior guard. "It's going to be quite the weekend."

If you think this is a lot for one family to handle on one weekend, you're right. If you think you're dealing with the inexperienced, guess again.

"Sports," Tricia said, "is the family business."

Take the first MAAC championship won by Fairfield, in the late '80s. The Stags, when Tricia was a freshman, beat La Salle.

"We couldn't even stay at the hotel that night," Tricia said. "I had to go home with my parents, since two of my brothers were playing in the state [basketball] semifinals in New Jersey. I was at their game the next night."

You may have heard of one of Tricia's brother. Tony Sacca, 13 months younger than Tricia, was one of the leading passers in Penn State history. He played briefly in the NFL for the Cardinals. Their younger brothers, John and Ralph, also were accomplished athletes. The family is legend at Delran High in South Jersey.

"My dad [Paul Fabbri] jokes that I got all my athletic ability from mom's side," Carly said. "But he was a good athlete; he played hockey at Fairfield."

Adding to the hectic nature of the weekend, Paul is gearing up pitchers and catchers for his first year as Ridgefield baseball coach. Fabbri was coach at Notre Dame-Fairfield for 14 years, leading the Lancers to state titles in 2004 and 2009. The field there is named after his dad. Paul also had been girls hockey coach for 11 years at Ridgefield, where he teaches. Paul's and Tricia's son, A.J., plays football and basketball at Notre Dame-West Haven. And if you're thinking that sports genes are oozing through this story, well, we've only started.

Flowing through all this, too, is the relationship with the DeSantis family. Michelle, Lauralton Hall's accomplished senior guard, has played basketball with Carly since they were little. H-O-R-S-E, one-on-one, you name it. Michelle's dad, Joe DeSantis, a terrific player at Fairfield, is the former men's coach at Quinnipiac.

"Carly and Michelle played with each other and against each other in camps," Tricia said. "They played AAU and now in high school on this stage together. I'm so excited for them. Two coaches' kids, it's a feel-good story."

Carly started playing at her mom's camp when she was 3. She always loved to be around her mom's practices, the games, in the locker room. For a long time, she was the Quinnipiac water girl, or as Tricia calls says, "my hydration specialist."

"I loved being around the team," Carly said. "I couldn't get enough of it. Road trips, that was my favorite part. The girls welcomed me in the back of the bus. That was the coolest thing. I idolized them. My mom introduced me to the game and I've grown up with her forging this bond over basketball."

Said Tricia: "I told Carly the other day, the saddest thing is I miss is walking down after the first half and her always there to hand me a cup of water."

Carly, of course, learned much more than dispensing liquids.

"At halftime, after the game, hearing what my mom had to say, and the girls' reactions, it taught me a lot about how to play the game," she said. "It also has helped me with keeping a positive attitude in all situations."

"I think growing up in the culture has helped all three of my kids exponentially," Fabbri said.

They've learned how to handle themselves while meeting recruits and their families. They went out to dinner in those circumstances and, at a young age, learned how to act in social settings. With Carly and her brothers around, Tricia was allowed to balance her family life. For Carly, it was a great benefit to understand both the X's and O's of basketball and the X's and O's of emotion.

"She has seen the locker room after heartbreaking losses and after great victories," Tricia said. "She has been in there when I got after the kids and there in total jubilation. I think it helped her in learning about team sports, how not to get too high or too low and how to be humble. I think that has helped mold her."

Carly has proof. At the start of her freshman season, she tore the ACL in one leg. As a sophomore in the SWC playoffs, she tore the ACL in her other leg. Surgery was required on both, and that meant nine months of recovery.

"Brianna Rooney, who played for Mom [the Guilford native was NEC defensive player of the year] went through the same thing I did," Carly said. "She's my role model. I look up to her. She came back even stronger. That's an advantage of having my mom as coach. I was able to see that, communicate with Brianna during what I went through. We have an awesome relationship.

"Those injuries only made me tougher and appreciate how much I love this game."

Tricia, who had 1,622 points and 1,037 rebounds at Fairfield and was selected to the 25th anniversary All-MAAC team, said her game had nothing in common with her daughter's. A tough 5-11, she said she was never allowed to face the basket. Carly gets others in the mix and is a three-point specialist.

"The one thing we have in common on the court is our competitive spirit," Tricia said.

And that showed when she talked about Lauralton Hall's only loss of the season — 66-47 on Dec. 28 to, yes, Mercy.

"It fueled our fire for the rest of the season," Carly said. "That loss didn't sit well with us. We're looking for bit of revenge. We learned a lot about our team how to come together after that loss."

With a deep, experienced team, meanwhile, her mother has been able to make mass substitutions to sustain defensive pressure and offensive pace. Among their victories, the Bobcats beat St. John's. Quinnipiac, 29-2, even got a vote for the first time in The Associated Press poll this week.

"I played against Kerry Bascom," Tricia said. "I saw how the UConn program took off and made the sport relevant to everybody. I've also seen how Hartford and Marist are consistently winning championships. That's where we want to be, that mid-major that's always relevant."

With that, Tricia Fabbri took off her coach's hat and put on her family hat.

"All these things going on this weekend, history is repeating itself for me," she said. "And that's a really good thing."

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