12 is the number of years Coach Matt Viggiano has been at the helm of the Marist Men’s Soccer team.
Five is the number of times they have reached the postseason of the MAAC in his tenure.
Zero is the number of times his team has earned a trip to the Championship game.
2019 is the year that Viggiano sees a whole new potential for one of his most promising squads to date.
Viggiano has enjoyed some of his greatest success in the past few years, reaching the postseason in three out of the past four campaigns. Now going into his 13th season, he is still trying to get his team over the hump and into the MAAC Championship game, where he knows they belong.
“We’re playing a nationally competitive schedule. My guys can play anywhere in the country, we know that,” he says. Backing up his point are consistent results against nationally recognized teams. A 1-1 draw against a no. 12 ranked Fordham team and a 1-0 victory at no. 17 ranked University of the Pacific in 2018 are prime examples of such.
Viggiano truly believes there is no team in the country that his squad can’t beat. Brimming with confidence, the ambition of the Men’s Soccer program can be seen in 2019’s schedule, too.
Marist routinely plays their non-conference games all over the country, which is extremely valuable to Viggiano, who gets to put his men up against a variety of quality teams. In 2019, they are slated to head down to Florida, as well as host a program as large as Gonzaga University.
After a bitter end to a promising postseason run in 2018, Viggiano is stressing improvement on the little things that “cost you the most.”
“We had three golden chances to win last year, so we put ourselves in a good position. Unfortunately, you make mistakes in the back, and we didn’t get it done,” he said of Marist’s semifinal loss to Quinnipiac University.
But there were real positives to take away from the 2018 season. Based on RPI, which accounts for the team’s record as well as strength of schedule, Marist was ranked 59th. To add some context, this puts the Red Foxes amidst the company of Clemson, Pittsburgh, and Wisconsin – renowned programs that have each produced professional players. This is a substantial reason why Viggiano has a contagious air of confidence and ambition about him as the preseason gets underway.
“We’re not MAAC good. We’re nationally good,” says Viggiano. This is not a coach who is holding back, nor is this a coach who has a doubt in his team’s ability. 2019 might just be the year Marist Men’s Soccer makes their biggest splash in Viggiano’s tenure.
Of course, they do still have to succeed in the conference before they can begin touting some national recognition.
“I don’t think the MAAC gets enough credit itself for having high-level teams… I thought last year, six or seven teams could have won and I think the same holds true this year,” Viggiano said. The MAAC Preseason Poll speaks the same parity, as each of the top five colleges came within just a few points of each other. Fairfield University has been dubbed the clear favorite; Marist is third in the running.
Also named in the preseason announcements is the All-MAAC Team projection. Making the cut for the Red Foxes – Senior midfielder, Samad Bounthong, and Junior forward, Allen Gavilanes. No surprise here as both players are current holders of All-MAAC First Team honors from 2018. Despite that, Viggiano is expecting a bounce-back year from Gavilanes after something of a sophomore slump.
Marist did suffer a loss in experience this summer as Senior Ernest Mitchell announced his transfer to Florida Gulf Coast University. Mitchell made 51 appearances in his three seasons under Viggiano, who seems content with how he and his staff have dealt with the departure.
“We addressed the position internally as well as with our recruiting class,” he said. He added that sometimes players don’t want to fight for their spots but alluded to a very competitive and diligent mentality in the squad for 2019.
The Red Foxes have a handful of young players joining their ranks. Viggiano cited newcomers like Huib Achterkamp, an LIU-Brooklyn transfer from the Netherlands, and Joe Mac, a Freshman from Toronto, as guys to look out for.
Coupled with the recuperation of players who were not healthy last season, such as Senior Marcus Ginman, the 2019 Red Foxes look poised to do damage on the Division I soccer scene.
“This is as excited as I’ve been, probably, in my 13 years here,” Viggiano said, stating that this talent pool is better than what he had in 2018.
A group of talented and committed players who are motivated to play a beautiful, attacking brand of soccer, and a coach whose aspirations know no boundaries – few soccer teams succeed without such components.
“We’re the most competitive sports team in the school, realistically. When you compare it nationally, there’s no doubt about it.”
Their quest for the MAAC Championship begins August 30, and for the team to begin backing up Viggiano’s preseason claims.
Edited by Will Bjarnar and Lily Caffrey-Levine