On a snowy day at Tenney Stadium, the Marist Red Foxes took care of business in their season opener against the Binghamton Bearcats with a dominant 12-4 victory. In the driver’s seat the whole game, the Red Foxes — the preseason favorite to win the MAAC — looked to be every bit as good as advertised.
Sophomore attackman Jojo Pirreca led the way for the red and white. He scored four times including a dazzling first quarter goal in which he danced through the defense before diving across the crease and tucking it past the Binghamton goalie. The goal gave the Red Foxes a 2-1 lead and they never looked back.
“I was in the zone, but anyone on this team could have that kind of day,” said Pirreca. “The cards just fell in my favor today. We all can score the ball but it was just my day today I guess.”
Pirreca wasn’t the only name being announced over the PA system today, though. Marist was a well-oiled machine on offense with six different players scoring a goal. James Lyons had a hattrick, Jake Weinman had two goals and Jamison Embury, Chris Schlappich and Vito Musso all scored one each. Jason Intermesoli also had three assists on the day, and senior midfielder Peyton Smith was dominant from the face-off circle.
“That’s been our MO,” Pirreca said about the team’s unselfish play on offense. “We don’t have one star here, so we like to spread the ball around because all of us can shoot and all of us can feed, so sharing the ball is a big emphasis for us.”
Defensively, the Red Foxes shined as well, which is reassuring considering all three starters are new in some capacity. Senior captain Sam Ahlgrim made his first start at close defense after spending the last three seasons as a long-stick midfielder. Junior Kyle Stofko is a transfer from Wagner who had yet to play at Marist and Kurt Wessner is a freshman playing his first collegiate minutes. Nevertheless, the defense — backed by a great outing from junior goalie Jake MacGregor — held the Bearcats to just four goals.
“Coming off last season when we graduated three close defenders and a short stick defensive midfielder who played for four years, we knew we needed guys to step up,” said head coach Keegan Wilkinson. “Credit goes to our upperclassman for helping the younger guys along and to Coach Scarcello for what he’s been able to do with a young defensive group. To hold a team to four goals, and only one in the second half is just unbelievable.”
While Ahlgrim and Stofko played great, it was freshman defender Kurt Wessner who was perhaps the biggest story of today’s strong defensive play. One of many freshman competing for the third starting defensive spot this off-season, Wessner won the battle and played nearly the entire game today.
“I’m really proud of Kurt,” Said Coach Wilkinson, smiling. “Our defense is a function of six guys, and Kurt was a really big part of it today.”
Another bright spot for Marist was their man-up offense. Last season Marist was sixth out of eight teams in the MAAC when it came to man-up scoring percentage, scoring just 16 times on 65 opportunities (24.6%) in 17 games. Coach Wilkinson and Coach Perrelle made it a priority to improve their man-up offense this off season, and sure enough when Binghamton committed a penalty in the first quarter, Marist capitalized. James Lyons found the back of the net on a beautiful cross-crease pass from Jason Intermesoli.
“Last year our man-up wasn’t as strong as we had hoped and that was a big point of emphasis for us this off-season,” said Wilkinson. “We brought in a guy like Coach Perrelle that has a ton of experience, and he’s done an awesome job with the man-up unit. In those specialty situations, especially early in the year, we’re really making sure we got the details down.”
Next friday, the Red Foxes will travel to Virginia to take on the Richmond Spiders at 6pm. It will be the first game for Richmond since they impressively took the Maryland Terrapins — the #4 teams in the country — to overtime, eventually losing 14-13.
The Red Foxes aren’t going to be thinking too much about that though, as Jojo Pirreca said, “We’re not really worried about any of their past games, we just gotta attack them with everything we got.”
Edited by Dan Statile