At a smaller Division I school like Marist College, it’s not difficult to put a name to the face of the many athletes competing for the school. After walking around campus for four years with their bright red backpacks and constant Marist Athletics apparel, these athletes have established themselves as just that — athletes. As they round the corner to graduation, the question remains: who are they outside of their sport?
The following story is a part of Center Field’s 19 for ‘19: Stories of the Senior Class series.
One month removed from the women’s basketball season and four months from tearing her ACL, Maura Fitzpatrick is working out on a stationary bike in the Marist trainer’s office. The senior is still preparing for next year, even though she still has no idea, as of May, if she will be on the team.
The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Defensive Player of the Year during the prior season played 11 games in the 2018-2019 season. She was just one game over the threshold to declare for an NCAA hardship waiver. However, Fitzpatrick is appealing the decision, making her status for next season a major question mark for the team and Maura. Neither head coach Brian Giorgis nor Maura have an idea of what the NCAA will rule.
Right after the injury, Maura remembers not being in much physical pain, but was in tears believing that she had played her last game.
Then, when she went home for break, the idea came about to try to play for another year from her family. For Maura, once the possibility of playing for Marist for the fifth season came to her, she was ardent about pursuing the process.
“Why not?” Maura said with a smile. “The ‘real world’ is scary.” Maura admits that she has, understandably, been a “wreck” about the pending decision from the NCAA. But that is not stopping her for preparing for the best; a chance to help her team win the MAAC tournament for the first time in her career.
“I think it would help a lot if she could come back because she is a great defender” Giorgis said. “She’s such an athlete. She can guard anyone at any spot. That is the amazing thing about her.”
Maura’s identity of becoming a lock-down defender developed in college. Wanting to stay on the floor during her freshman year, she knew that putting effort on defense would make her stand out. If she was having a bad shooting night, she would still be needed on the floor because of the value of stopping the top scoring threat on the other team’s offense. “I would say defense is 70 percent effort,” Maura said. Maura felt that her defensive effort made a big jump from freshman to sophomore year.
Another motivation for Maura to be the best defender possible was that she thought it could be the best route to receive recognition. “I wanted to win an award,” Maura said. She felt like becoming a defensive player was the best way to do this.
While in high school the highest level she was recruited to play at was Atlantic-10 schools. When she visited Marist rival, Quinnipiac, she decided it was too close to her home of Chershon, Connecticut. She landed at Marist because of several reasons: the reputation and the connection with her head coach, the chance for playing time right away, and the program’s success. But she said what really sold her on the school was seeing a Marist women’s home game. “I remember seeing the crowd, not many mid-major schools can draw that many people.”
Although she came in with the expectation to play in the NCAA tournament, her freshman and sophomore years turned out to be transition years for the program, as the team dealt with players transferring out. The team was short-handed during Maura’s sophomore season. Although the team had a down year (15-17, overall for the year), Maura’s fear of not being able to get on the court was put to rest; she averaged 36.5 minutes per game.
After the end of the regular season of her junior year, she final achieved her individual goal of winning defensive player of the year. Giorgis called her a week before the voting was public to let her know. She remembered her coach pointing out to her that she did not lead the MAAC in any major statistical category that year, yet, the other MAAC coaches still took notice of her abilities.
After an abrupt ending to her season in December of her senior year, Maura said that she decided to take on a new responsibility for the team. “It wasn’t as bad as I thought,” she said. “I took on a role as the hype man.” Her and Allie Clement embraced being on the bench trying to be the loudest fans of their teammates. They would control the speakers prior to games and set the tone mentally for the team. She gleefully recollected the post-game celebration after the team beat Rider in the semifinals MAAC tournament.
After her interview was finished, Maura shakes my hand and power walked back to the trainer’s station to continue biking. She needs to be ready if she gets the waiver.
Edited by the Center Field Editorial Team.
Header image by Kristin Flanigan.