On Thursday, the Marist women’s basketball team was defeated by St. John’s by a score of 68-47 in the opening round of the WNIT tournament, officially ending the Red Foxes’ 2017-18 season. Overall, Marist finished the year with a 20-14 record, finishing second in the MAAC standings and runner-up in the MAAC tournament.
Last year the women’s record was 15-17 overall. The only other time the Red Foxes had finished below a .500 record under Brian Giorgis was in 2002-03, which was his first year as the head coach. To begin this season, it looked like Marist might have been on track for another underwhelming season for a program that traditionally finishes near the top of the MAAC. The young Red Fox team started the season going 3-8 in their non-conference schedule, and in that span, they lost to some tough opponents including USC, Purdue and Seton Hall by double-digit margins. Things turned around once conference play began, and Marist hit their stride in the middle of January by going on a nine game winning streak. The only team Marist was unable to beat at least once in their conference was the MAAC regular and postseason champions Quinnipiac, losing to them three times by single-digit margins.
In addition to the team’s success, several players received individual achievements and improved their play from last season. Rebekah Hand progressed from her Rookie of the Year season last year. She finished second in the conference in scoring, averaging 16.3 points per game. Hand’s shooting numbers improved from last year, as she hit 39.6 percent of her 3-point attempts and shot 94 percent from the free throw line, which ranked third in Division I basketball. The sophomore guard was also 10th in the MAAC in rebounding, with 6.2 boards per game.
Marist’s pair of transfer redshirt sophomore guards, Alana Gilmer and Grace Vander Wiede, both had successful first years playing for Marist and were both key reasons for the Red Foxes’ turnaround from last season. Gilmer was named to Second Team All-MAAC, averaging 15.5 points per game on the season, which ranked fifth in the conference. Gilmer really shined at the end of the year, averaging 21.3 points during the MAAC tournament, with a 56.3 percent field goal percentage in those three games. Vander Weide was eligible to play in mid-December and took over the starting point guard role during the team’s late season run and stepped up for the squad after junior guard Allie Clement suffered a season ending knee injury in a December game against the University of Rhode Island Rams. Vander Weide led the team with 4.4 assist per game.
Maura Fitzpatrick was the defensive anchor for the team this season. Marist was first in the conference in defensive field goal percentage, with Fitzpatrick being a big part of that by shutting down the main offensive threat for the opposing team. Fitzpatrick also led the MAAC in minutes played, averaging 35.6 minutes per game. Despite not leading the conference in any major defensive statistical category, the MAAC head coaches took notice of her lock-down defending abilities and voted her MAAC Defensive Player of the Year.
Freshman forward Willow Duffell started 23 games for the Red Foxes averaging 5.6 rebounds per game, earning her a spot on the All-MAAC Rookie Team.
Looking ahead to next season, Quinnipiac will start the year as the team to beat in the conference. After going undefeated in conference play, the team defeated the Miami Hurricanes in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday. Quinnipiac will return four of their starters, including All-MAAC First Team honorees freshman Aryn McClain and junior Jennifer Fay.
The Red Foxes have two incoming freshmen committed for this upcoming fall in Sarah Barcello and Kendall Krick, who are currently teammates at Seton Catholic Preparatory High School in Chandler, Arizona. The duo help lead their high school team to a state title last month. Barcello is a two time Arizona Player of the Year honoree. She received an ESPN scouting grade of 90 and is ranked the 28th best guard in the country in her recruiting class. The Red Foxes will also be helped with the return of Hannah Hand next season, who missed the second half of the season due to injury. Hannah Hand, like her twin sister Rebekah, is an excellent 3-point shooter and will add more depth to an already balanced scoring lineup. Allie Clement will also return healthy after missing the majority of the past two seasons due to injuries. Overall, with returning all five starters and these additions, next year’s team promises to have more depth.
With the talent coming back and the young team getting more experience playing together, it will be an exciting season for Marist fans as they try to get back to the NCAA tournament for the first time in four years.