Marist women’s lacrosse has had a tough start to the 2020 season. Sitting at 0-4 entering Saturday’s contest, it’s their worst four-game start since 2013. Not coincidental, the Red Foxes were tasked with a difficult early schedule. But that is the question. Has the slow start to the season been an issue of personnel or has it simply been the quality of opponents they faced?
The Red Foxes recorded their first win of the season against the Binghamton Bearcats on Saturday. Despite starting off the season on a better note last year, that does not mean this team is not as good. The four losses this season have come at the hands of Colgate University, West Point, Cornell University, and Rutgers University, all strong Division I programs. “Playing teams like that really shows our strengths and also our weaknesses. It really helps to build confidence,” said senior Samantha Mehalick. After losing five seniors from last year, as all made significant contributions, their star players were tasked with larger roles entering this year. Sure, there was talent that graduated, but it has allowed opportunities for others to leave an impact this season. The fact is, however, the strength of schedule has been the biggest factor in their slow start this year.
Last season the Red Foxes finished with an overall record of 8-10, going 4-4 in conference play. A similar strategy to last season, the hope is by facing challenging opponents it will allow them to finish with a better record in conference play and then to go on and win the MAAC Conference Tournament this year, after falling just a game shy of the finals last year.
Now sitting at 1-4 after their dominant 17-7 win over Binghamton, the Red Foxes have similar numbers through the team’s first five games last season. Now remember, last year they were just one game away from the MAAC final. In the first five games of last season, they scored 53 goals and allowed 71, a goal differential of -18. This season they have scored 50 goals and allowed 72. In terms of efficiency, their shot percentage this season through five games is similar to last season as well. Last season in the team’s first five games they shot .396, which is the exact number they finished with after their 18 game season. Being that five games is about a third of the team’s games, it’s not a small sample size. It gives a clear understanding of how the season will most likely play out. In their first five games, their shot on goal percentage was .708, finishing the season with a percentage of .689. As you can tell your first five games are very reflective of how the season will end up.
Now let’s look at this season’s numbers. This season their shot percentage is .357 and their shot on goal percentage is .700. While their shot percentage is a bit down, their shot on goal percentage is relatively the same so their efficiency is nearly what it was last year. And what did they do last year? They were one game shy of the MAAC Championship game after dropping a very close game to the number one seed, Fairfield.
Offensive production isn’t the only measurement that suggests their slow start is due to the quality of the opponent. The numbers this year support this team can go just as far last year, if not further. After five games last year they had committed 88 turnovers in five games, an average of 17.6 per game. They finished the season with an average of 16.7. This year that number is down. They have 78 turnovers through the first third of the season, averaging 15.6 per game. When it comes to handling opponent’s defensive pressure, they are slightly better this year. While there is still more than half of their games to still be played, evidence suggests they will be better when it comes to limiting turnovers. Junior, Goalkeeper Delaney Galvin has 59 saves through the team’s first five games this year. Last season she had 42 saves through the first five. Last year they allowed 114 shots on goal, compared to 132 this year. This shows Galvin is continuing to improve as a player. Remember they have allowed only one more goal through the first five games this season, yet Galvin has 17 more saves.
When talking about the reasoning for the tough schedule head coach Jessica Wilkinson said, “Although we weren’t happy with how we played in all of them, I know that it was challenging us for future games on our schedule.” That right there suggests their record is not the biggest concern. It is their performance. Yet the numbers say they have been performing the same despite tougher opponents. If that’s the case, then there is some serious potential yet to be unlocked.
Edited by Jack Griffith