It was always a tough ask ,first match of the season in hot and humid Jacksonville, Fla., a lineup chock full of newcomers. But this is what head coach Matt Viggiano envisioned for his team; among the most challenging and competitive schedules in the nation.
In their first true test of the 2019 campaign the Red Foxes fell 2-1, despite a first half Samad Bounthong goal. It was in this loss that the future of this season for Marist became clear.
The leadership core, with all of their talent and experience, is what needs to lead a group of promising freshmen and new transfers.
Viggiano’s men spent much of the game looking to get the ball wide and whip crosses into the middle. As a result of their tactics and attacking play, Marist finished the match with 17 total shots, more than doubling the tally of their hosts.
Those who displayed strong debuts in light of the final score include freshmen Stefan Copetti, Antek Sienkiel, and Joe Mac, along with junior transfer Huib Achterkamp and sophomore transfer Samuel Ilin.
Copetti played aggressive and feisty atop the Red Foxes formation, while Ilin showed flashes of brilliance in goal. Though questions can be asked of the Marist defense and goalkeeper about the two goals conceded—neither of them particularly deserving to end up in the back of the net—their were plenty of positives that Viggiano will have to draw from.
Viggiano spoke in a preseason interview with Center Field about needing junior Allen Gavilanes to have a rebound year in order to lead the offense. Tonight against Jacksonville, he showed that he’s on the right track to where the Red Foxes need him.
On the lone Marist goal, Gavilanes made space for himself on the wing and was able to dribble through Jacksonville’s defense into the box. He single handedly created the opportunity, and picked the perfect moment to cross the ball into Bounthong for the simple tap-in.
The young players and fresh faces that Viggiano now has to work with have completed step one to proving that they can be a successful core group going forward. But, it is evident that they’re not going anywhere without the guiding, up-field drive of veterans like Bounthong and Gavilanes.
With a few defensive adjustments and some clinical finishing in the final third, the Red Foxes can take the MAAC by storm. But before that, they have some business to attend to in non-conference games, with upcoming fixtures against Gonzaga University and at the University of Pennsylvania. Monday’s match at the University of North Florida has been cancelled due to impending storms, cutting the teams stint down south short.
The Red Foxes have much to work on as they return home earlier than expected, but have displayed the promise of an ambitious side preparing for a big season.
Edited by Lily Caffrey-Levine