It was a big day across the world of MAAC soccer, as multiple games on Wednesday had severe impacts on the MAAC Championship tournament playoff seeding. Regarding the Red Foxes, they did exactly what they needed to do and more. In their regular season finale they were able to lock in the fourth seed spot with an astonishing 6-0 win over Canisius.
The pressure was directed on Marist right from the kickoff. In a league where the top six teams qualify for the tournament, Marist came into the day as the fourth seed with 15 points, (5-4 record). Although they already had a spot in the tournament locked in, fifth/sixth seeded Manhattan and Rider were right on Marist’s tail with 15 and 14 points respectively. With one win equivalating to three points, a loss or tie to Canisius could’ve caused the Foxes to fall to the lowest playoff seed.
Creating more initial drama, Rider played their game against Quinnipiac at the exact same time as the Red Foxes (4:00 P.M.), while Manhattan began two hours before versus Siena.
Canisius came and finished the regular season with the worst record in the MAAC. Heading into the day, their 45 goals against ranked dead last by a whopping 11. Their offense hadn’t been very special either with their 16 goals being tied for second-to-worst. Despite this, head coach Matt Viggiano did not take the foot off the gas, as he knew that every game still very much mattered. “We came in with the mindset of hopefully coming in and stepping it down their throats,” Viggiano stated confidently. “We knew that they didn’t have anything to play for… so we were hoping for an early goal to put them out of their misery.”
Marist looked like an absolute powerhouse in this one, completely exploiting Canisius’ weak defense. All in all, the game was practically over in the first half.
The slaughter began right from the get-go. In just the second minute, freshman Stephen Copetti stole the ball from a Canisius defender and dished it to an unpressured midfielder, Skylar Conway, for the score. It currently stands as the quickest goal Marist has converted all season, with the previous highest being in the 21st.
Conway then extended the lead picking up his second goal in just the 20th minute. Set up by a beautiful pass from midfielder/forward Justin Jaime on the right side of the field, Conway was able to deke out the one defender guarding him and put on the back left side of the night. Heading into the game the sophomore had not scored throughout the entire season.
As the scorekeepers were trying to adjust to the Conway goal, Allen Gavilanes had other plans in mind. A perfect cross from freshman Joe Mac in the 21st minute sailed over seven Canisius defenders and right on the path of a sprinting Gavilanes. The midfielder than rolled it past the diving goalkeeper for the score.
A whole five minutes later, Jaime decided to get in on the scoring action converting the fourth goal of the game, assisted by Conway and midfielder Jacob Schulman.
The first half would then be capped off by a third goal from Conway. In the 37th minute Canisus forward Glorie Ndagno attempted to steal the ball by the 10-yard line, but ended up tripping Conway with a slide kick. The Canisius goalie could not handle his frustration, as he aggressively pushed the net, following a successful penalty attempt.
The Red Foxes were clearly a step ahead, creating a plethora of offensive opportunities off of clears and turnovers. In the first half the team tallied a whopping 10 shots on goal, with their previous full-game season-high being at just nine. Although five goals were shown on the box score that number could’ve even been higher if not for some diving saves and a crossbar hit.
The final score in this one was 6-0. Marist’s six goals were the most they scored in a game since August 26th 2011.
“It’s good to have momentum obviously,” said Viggiano. “I think it’s a good lift for the whole group because everyone was able to play tonight. It’s a good morale boost for everyone.”
“Today felt great.” a smiling Conway stated about his hat trick. “It was one of the best feelings of the season so far. Scoring my first goal, it was just exhilarating,”
“We knew what was going on, we kept track of both scores. But we also knew that if we just took care of our business that things would work out properly for us,” said Viggiano regarding the playoff seeding circumstances. Rider ultimately fell short in their game, 3-1, while Manhattan failed to score in a 0-0 tie.
Marist will host their quarterfinal matchup against #5 seeded Manhattan.
“I think we’re as good as anyone in the conference,” Viggiano acclaimed. “Obviously it’s win or go home time, so if we can play with composure and play the way I think we’re capable of, then I think we got a good shot.”
Manhattan actually finished the season with eight less goals allowed compared to Marist but had scored just 17 goals compared to Marist’s 31. In their one regular season game against this team, the Red Foxes won 3-2 off a goal from Jaime with six seconds left. In their last four matchups, Marist has been victorious three times.
“They’re an athletic team… It’s a bit of contrast in styles, we like to keep the ball, and they’re a little more direct. So, we’ll see who the best team wins.”
The game will occur on Sunday, November 10th at Tenney Stadium. As Viggiano stated, “It’s win or go home.”
Edited by Kourtney Kowalski