Water Polo Undefeated in MAAC Tournament

As the National Anthem played, there was not a ripple in the water. But shortly after the starting lineup locked hands and jumped in the pool. The silence was broken and chaos commenced.

This past weekend eight schools gathered at the McCann Natatorium for a regular season MAAC women’s water polo tournament. Among the schools visiting were LaSalle University, St. Francis Brooklyn, Siena College and Marist head coach Chris Vidale’s alma mater, Iona College. Marist faced these four teams this weekend, having already faced Villanova, Virginia Military Institute and Wagner College, who were also in attendance at the tournament.

This home tournament marked an opportunity for the Red Foxes to clinch a spot in the MAAC Championship tournament. Additionally, for the three seniors, defender captain Diana Carballo, goalie captain Jessica Hermosillo and attacker Caoimhe Whitebloom, this marked their senior day as they played in their last regular season home games as Red Foxes.

Opening their tournament play against LaSalle, Marist came out strong with three unanswered goals. Through some aggressive play, Marist’s calculated passing and accuracy on attack allowed them to acquire 20 goals, including a hat trick from sophomore center Carolyn Gauvin. In addition to the strong performance from the offense, aggressive defense and goal tending were major factors as well. LaSalle saw both Hermosillo and junior Hope Vickers in net, each allowing a singular goal.

The next match showed a more even level of play, as well as heighten aggression from both sides. This competitiveness brought several penalties and calls disputed by coaches. However, once again Marist started strong with three unanswered goals. They were able to remain calm in the face of Iona’s aggressive style of play, seeing multiple goals from utilities junior Katherine Tijerina, sophomore Justine Castro and sophomore Anias Mathes.

The back-and-forth play also called for a great performance from the defense, putting pressure on Iona  in front of the net. Hermosillo had a spectacular performance, allowing only five goals and finishing with a .688 save percentage. Despite the evenly matched strength and technical play, Marist out-scored Iona 10-5, despite taking only 18 shots to Iona’s 25.

Day two of the tournament began with Marist holding St. Francis scoreless in the first period, while they scored five goals. After Carballo’s goal to open the second quarter, St. Francis went on to score four goals in the second quarter, including a power play goal. The second half continued with back and forth scoring and tough battles for the ball on both offense and defense. Marist’s technical and calculated play allowed for clearer shots and more scoring opportunities. Hermosillo continued with her momentum from day one, making impressive saves throughout the game for an 11-8 win.

After three hard fought games, Coach Vidale attributes the team’s success to their high level of competitiveness and looked forward to improving overall play. “It wasn’t our cleanest game, but at the end of the day we got the W[in] and that’s what matters,” he said of the win over St. Francis.

At the end of the tournament Marist came out undefeated, clinching a spot in the MAAC Championship tournament. Photo by Lily Caffrey-Levine.

The last match began with the senior day ceremony, celebrating the three athletes from the class of 2018. As the seniors played their last regular season match in the McCann Natatorium as Red Foxes, they allowed only five goals to the 17 they got in the back of the net against Siena. Freshman center Lauren Smith, Castro, and Carballo on her senior day all contributed hat tricks. Although Siena quickly answered the Red Foxes’ opening goal, Marist dominated throughout the game. The heavy pressure on defense left little room or time for Siena to take clear shots and Coach Vidale’s smart tactics proved to be a weapon on offense.

One of the key takeaways from the tournament was the goal keeping from Hermosillo. Marist never trailed throughout the tournament and was briefly tied with Siena before taking the lead. The various competitors in the MAAC come from all over the country and the world from various clubs and showcase a high level of skill offensively and defensively. Hermosillo made some amazing saves throughout the tournament, blocking calculated shots from strong athletes. However, going forward from this weekend Hermosillo is ready to show the conference the hard work they have, and continue, to put in.

“We still have a few games ahead of us. We’re trying to prove we deserve it. We’ve worked hard for it and maybe our hard work will pay off this year,” she said.

At the end of the tournament Marist came out undefeated, clinching a spot in the MAAC Championship tournament. After going 4-0 this past weekend, Coach Vidale is looking ahead to the remaining conference games as well as the championship tournament.

“My expectations are always that we are going to compete,” Vidale said. “Now it’s a matter of the little things. Making sure we’re mentally ready to get the job done, I think at the end of the day it’s going to come down to the mental game versus anything physical.”

While women’s water polo showed their skill this weekend, Coach Vidale stresses the importance of mental strength going into the MAAC Championship.

“We have to be mentally tough, we have to be resilient. We have to understand that regardless of what happens; however the ball falls, we just have to react, attack and adjust,” Vidale said.

With hard work ahead, the Red Foxes move forward with a goal in mind. Marist Women’s Water Polo finishes out their conference play next weekend, facing Villanova, Wagner, and Virginia Military Institute.

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