Marist’s Water Polo team boasts a fabled pre-game soundtrack. Filled to the brim with songs that could ignite a fire in the chest of even Jack Frost, including Panic! at the Disco’s “High Hopes” and Drake’s “Nice for What,” there’s one that perhaps resonates the most. It’s clear why; “The Champion” by Carrie Underwood (featuring Ludacris, as is only natural) sends lyrics like “I am invincible” and “They knock me down, I get up again” echoing throughout the McCann Pool area.
The sentiments that live inside those lyrics always reign true for the Red Foxes, a team that has been through the ringer both physically and emotionally, but never more than on a championship Sunday. Unfortunately, there are times when the shots just don’t land, no matter the confidence, and no matter the attitude.
By a score of 8-4, the Wagner Seahawks defeated the Red Foxes en route to a sixth straight MAAC title. Led by redshirt junior Kristy Donkin, whose four goals handily led all scorers, the Seahawks jumped out to a 5-1 lead at halftime. They wouldn’t look back.
“You can’t miss on opportunities,” Head Coach Chris Vidale said after the loss. “We missed two early shots going down… we let one person get four goals… And those are just specifics, I’m not going to point blame on anybody because this is a massive team thing.”
Marist scored first; a behind the back, head underwater stunner from senior Grace Doerfler put them ahead 1-0.
They remained solid on offense, with but a few ball movement mishaps standing in the way of them increasing their lead. Wagner would capitalize on these mishaps, scoring two first period goals of their own. Come halftime, the defensive effort from the Seahawks would heighten, holding Marist to that lone goal, and boasting a 5-1 lead.
Wagner would build on their existing lead early, with Donkin scoring quickly to start the second half, making it 6-1. Marist’s Anais Mathes scored soon after, cutting into the lead ever so slightly. But even with a late game surge from the Red Foxes, led in particular by Justine Castro and Ariana Singer’s fourth period goals, as well as nearly a dozen saves on the day from Carsen Horvatich, Wagner was immovable defensively. Prior to today’s showing, Marist had only been held under five goals three times this season (one of which came in a forfeit against Wagner).
While the result was unfortunate and undesired, the spirits of the 21 girls in and around the pool are simply unshakeable.
Forget the pre-game jitters. Not a single member of the Marist squad stood still ahead of the game’s first buzzer. They didn’t display your typical “game face,” that haunting scowl meant to incite fear in the opponent. Instead, they smiled. They danced.
“We’re a tight crew; it’s not like you have pockets of this and that,” Vidale said. “We all eat together. We do everything together. I go to breakfast with them most mornings. It’s a tight knit crew and this is tough… but such is life.”
Carrie Underwood wasn’t wrong in her song, “The Champion.” Not in the context seen today. Sure, the Seahawks walked away trophy in hand, championship t-shirts donned. But Marist “did it for the glory.” The girls can honestly say proudly, “I did it for the love of the game.”
Vidale, someone whose spirit may be a bit dampened by the lost, was still confident and proud in the efforts of his players. “It stinks to come up short,” he said. “For six seniors that have been killing themselves for this moment, that have been playing in honor of a lost teammate, it’s tough. But I know my athletes are leaders. I know they will compete in anything they do. They’re special young women.”
After the game, Vidale could be seen poolside hugging each and every one of those special young women, smiles creeping through the relative disappointment, No. 17 emblems on their backs. For these players, it has always about more than titles. It has been about Courtney. It has been about each other. And as the pre-game tune sang, it has and always will be about “the love of the game.”
Edited by Meaghan Roche