Think of Marist Athletics—images of Jon Kanda or Austin Day playing their game might be the first to pop into your head.
What’s wrong with this picture is that the Red Fox sports scene is far more enticing than what most students, faculty, alumni, etc., appreciate it for. While the primary backbone of collegiate athletics is often assumed to be football or basketball, some of the programs that may not receive their due on the popularity spectrum should.
Which is to say: Marist soccer games should be the most widely attended games at this college.
These are teams that play in front of a minuscule crowd made up of mostly parents and other adults. Take it from someone often observing the game’s firsthand: there are next to no students at these games to cheer on their fellow Red Foxes and take in a match. The greatest contingency of attending students is made up of student-athletes from other teams, perhaps a spring sport like baseball or lacrosse, and the counterparts of whoever is playing. In simpler terms, the women’s soccer team is the biggest supporter of the men’s team, and other Marist squads make up most of the crowd at each others games.
This is a general statement, of course, but it has not gone unnoticed by the coaching staff of the men’s soccer team. Head coach Matt Viggiano often references his desire to see more Marist students in the Tenney Stadium seats. For two home games in a row now, Viggiano has expressed his disappointment at the crowd (in size, volume, etc.) gathering to see his team chase the conference title.
“You would hope that the crowd would give us a little life, you know? We would like to see the Red Fox Nation out here, a little more full throat,” he said after losing last week in overtime to Saint Peter’s, the best team in the MAAC.
All of this begs the question: which games are Marist students going to?
There is no denying the fact that Marist football has struggled for years. Don’t take my word for it, though. Take it from the fact that they have had a winning record just five times this century. Now, this is by no means an exposé on the lack of success in the football program. It just serves as an example to my larger point—the general Marist population knows nothing about its soccer teams or the success they enjoy.
Marist women’s soccer has missed the postseason just once in 10 years, and not since 2014. This year they are the fourth seed heading into the MAAC tournament, and with plenty of momentum. The team has personality and bundles of skill.
You’re telling me that’s not as exciting as a 21-7 homecoming loss to Cornell?
It’s not even just about the success of Red Fox soccer teams; there is also the factor of quality and excitement. The major complaint coming from many of those who aren’t fans of the sport is that it’s slow or boring. While at the professional level this may sometimes be a reasonable argument, at the collegiate level it’s a whole different world.
The pace of play is quick, and teams have a consistent appetite for the high press and swift counterattacks. Instead of allowing the opposition to possess the ball, teams force numbers forward to win it back as efficiently as possible.
If you’re looking for a team that does this often and well, look no further than Marist men’s soccer. Viggiano is clear about his fondness for the fast, aggressive style. It’s now familiar to the few who do make it out to Tenney Stadium in the Fall (and surely part of the reason the Red Foxes have just one home loss in conference play in 2019). Yet they play in front of so few people that one can hear on-field tactical adjustments from the press box.
Just one week after Marist football’s loss in their homecoming game to Cornell, which drew over 2,000 fans, they fell 41-17 to Drake in front of a crowd of nearly 4,000.
Perhaps there is a larger discussion to be had here about football and the American culture surrounding it. Just last weekend during a rugby playoff game, multiple players could be heard from the field shouting to their friends on the sideline about NFL scores and fantasy football stats.
But I digress.
These are numbers that the likes of Viggiano would salivate over. For a good team that already demonstrates a significant home-field advantage, a couple thousand Red Fox fans in the seats could turn Marist’s soccer teams into a juggernaut. And if you’re a fan, you would certainly be doing yourself a favor.
Go watch your soccer teams. With the MAAC Championships coming up, you could do worse. You probably can’t do better.
Edited by Will Bjarnar and Lily Caffrey-Levine
Header Image by Craig Conway