By Duane Cochran
For the Times West Virginian
For Kaitlin Snyder, not too many days in her life will top Saturday, March 2, 2013.
One day earlier Fairmont State University’s senior point guard said she and her teammates heading into championship Saturday at the final West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Basketball Tournament at the Charleston Civic Center had an “opportunity for another memory to be made.”
And, boy, did they ever take full advantage of that opportunity and make one they’ll never forget.
All Snyder did Saturday was help lead FSU to its third WVIAC Women’s Basketball Tournament title in six years and the second of her career with a come-from-behind 65-54 victory over Seton Hill. For her efforts she was selected Most Valuable Player of the tourney, named to the WVIAC’s 10-member all-tournament team along with teammates Hailey Garrett and Briana Welch, and win the event’s Heart and Hustle Award.
Oh, and just for good measure, on Saturday she also became the all-time scoring leader in FSU women’s basketball history.
“It really doesn’t get any better than this,” said a teary black-eyed Snyder, who suffered the injury during an accidental collision with teammate Emily Lohr hustling after a loose ball earlier in the tourney. “Aside from all of the awards I’m just so thankful that we were able to pull out this win. It’s not only important to me and my teammates, but everybody else — the fans and everybody in Fairmont. You know how tight-knit Fairmont is. We’re all excited.
“Who wouldn’t want to come out and win? You start in November and this is what you play for. This is where you want to be. Ultimately this is the goal and we met that goal, and the feeling is incredible.”
Snyder averaged 16 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.8 steals en route to earning MVP honors. Her double-double performance of 18 points and a game-high 12 rebounds in the title game helped seal the honor for her.
This season Snyder has struggled with her shooting more so than ever before in her previous three years in a Lady Falcons uniform. But the four-year starter who became Fairmont’s leader Saturday in games played (119) and games started (119) says she surrounded by a talented cast who assisted her not only in the tournament, but throughout the 2012-13 season.
“I’m not the only scorer on this team,” said Snyder. “I might be the so-called go-to player, but we have Hailey (Garrett), who can score and rebound, Tiffany (Nicholson), who scores and gets steals, Bri (Welch), who really played well in the tournament despite being sick, Emily (Lohr), who can shoot and rebound and Hallie (Gunnoe), who came off the bench for us and really played tremendous the entire tournament. She had a double-double in the championship game.
“We’ve got everything we need. We’re putting four and five players in double figures every game, so it’s certainly not all about me. We have all of the pieces that we need to be successful and I think we proved that by winning this thing. Hopefully, we can keep it going in the national tournament.”
With 1:39 remaining in Saturday’s championship game and Fairmont State clinging to a seven-point lead, Snyder stepped to the foul line and calmly drained a pair of free throws to pass Kristen Gattuso (2,041) as the Lady Falcons’ all-time leading scorer. She added three more free throws and currently has 2,046 points for her career.
“It’s special,” said Snyder. “It’s something I’ll always cherish, but you know right now I’m just happy we got the win, and if that’s something that comes along with it then that’s awesome.
“There’s been some great players who have played here and I was fortunate enough to play with one of them in Ashley Vavrek in 2010. I learned a lot from her. To be included on the same list with them and their accomplishments — it means a lot to me.”
Snyder now becomes the fourth FSU women’s basketball player since 2005 who has scored more than 1,300 career points to finish her career with a WVIAC title.
Kristen Gattuso (2001-05), who Snyder just passed as the school’s all-time scoring leader, led Fairmont to its first regular-season league championship in 32 years and an NCAA Tournament berth as a senior in 2005. As noted, Gattuso finished her career with 2,041 points.
Danielle Cornish (2004-08), who finished her career with 1,319 points and is 13th in career scoring in school history, turned the trick as well when she led the 2007-08 Lady Falcons to their first league tournament title in 24 years and a second NCAA Tournament bid. Cornish, who was named MVP of the WVIAC Tournament and was a freshman on FSU’s 2005 regular-season championship team, averaged 14.5 points and 10.8 rebounds in Fairmont’s run to the title.
Two years later Ashley Vavrek (2006-10), who was a sophomore on FSU’s 2007-08 title team, led the Lady Falcons to the 2009-10 WVIAC Tournament Championship and a third NCAA Tournament berth with an MVP performance of her own. Vavrek, who finished her career with 1,612 career points and is seventh in school history in scoring, averaged 24.5 points per outing in the tournament for the Lady Falcons, who became the first-ever sixth seed to win the league tournament on the women’s side.
Snyder was a freshman starter at point guard for the Falcons on that squad.