On March 1, 1998, the Fairfield University women's basketball team defeated Loyola (Md.) 59-53 at Pepsi Arena in Albany, N.Y., to win the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament championship. That made certain that Jessica Grossarth would end her career with the Stags in the NCAA Division I tournament, a fitting final act for the future Fairfield Athletics Hall of Famer.
Jess, a fiery 6-foot guard originally from Howard Beach, N.Y., finished her Fairfield career with 1,677 points (fourth all-time), 14.5 points per game (fourth), 654 field goals made (third), 1,722 field goals attempted (first), 180 3-point field goals (fifth), a 3-point field goal percentage of .317 (sixth) and 568 rebounds. She was MAAC Rookie of the Year in 1995, the league's co-player of the year in 1997 as a junior and earned first team All-MAAC honors in 1997 and 1998. The Stags were 20-10 in 1998, ending their season in an NCAA tournament matchup versus UConn at Gampel Pavilion, with second-seeded UConn toppling No. 15 Fairfield. Jess was inducted into the Fairfield Hall of Fame in 2005.
“There's nothing like being an underdog as a team and coming through to win it all,” Jess said, listing winning the league tournament as her fondest memory of the sport. “… (Basketball) provided an opportunity to learn how to operate effectively in a group, how to navigate difficult personalities, how to set goals and reach them and how to budget time.”
Jess was a four-year member of the varsity softball team at St. Francis Preparatory School in Queens, N.Y., playing shortstop and earning first team All-City honors as a senior when she led the Terriers to the city and state championships. Basketball, however, with the perpetual support of her parents, soon became her first love. Following her career at Fairfield, Jess received a tryout at an American Basketball League combine. She turned down an offer to play professionally in Puerto Rico in order to attend law school.
She is a 1998 graduate of Fairfield, where she majored in biology, and a 2001 graduate of Quinnipiac University School of Law. Jess, who still makes Fairfield her home, is an attorney at Pullman & Comley LLC in Bridgeport specializing in bankruptcy and creditors' rights and public finance and recently received an award for being one of the Connecticut Women's Education and Legal Fund's “40 Women for the Next 40 Years.” Jess is Chair of her firm’s Diversity Committee, and serves on the Board of the Lawyers’ Collaborative for Diversity. She is married to fellow Fairfield University graduate and former softball player, Karyn Kennedy.
Jess would like to see the elimination of free throws; being fouled would result in an automatic two points – “this would never happen,” she said. And if there's one piece of advice she would pass on regarding basketball it would revolve around mental toughness.
“There is nothing more important than mental toughness. Those who have it have a huge advantage,” she said. “If you lack it, you should work on it and master it. My one regret is that I never mastered it while I was an athlete, had I done that I would have been an even better, more complete athlete.”