It was only prudent for the Marist men’s lacrosse team to enter their season with expectations bursting through the roof. They finished their 2019 campaign with a record of 10-7, but more importantly and impressively, secured the MAAC championship and went on to play in the NCAA tournament.
The team knew they’d have to prepare and better themselves as a unit over the offseason in order to defend their championship in what was then the looming 2020 season. The men started their season off posting a .500 record of 3-3, including a monumental win for the program against then eighth-ranked Army at home on February 18.
A few weeks later, Marist dropped a game to a solid Delaware team in a shootout at home, never imagining it would be the last game of their season.
Jamison Embury, who accumulated 21 points in the abbreviated season, said the team was feeling good through seven games. “Heading into MAAC play, we felt really confident about where we were as a team,” he said. “After Delaware, we were focused on showing the MAAC that we’re here, and here for real.”
Marist would have been tasked with playing seven of their remaining eight games against familiar MAAC opponents. The first matchup was against Quinnipiac, a rematch of the previous season’s conference championship game. As the Red Foxes prepared for the matchup, the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak began to impact college athletics. Dominos fell one by one, as you know; first came attendance restrictions, then conference tournament cancellations, then the shuttering of March Madness. Spring sports were soon to follow. Lacrosse, softball, baseball, and other spring athletes across the country wouldn’t finish their long-awaited seasons.
Coach Wilkinson dreaded having to break the news to his team. Embury, reflecting on their team meeting, said “it was a really emotional time, especially for the seniors. We kind of just had to hug it out.”
While the seniors more than likely feel bitter about how their last year ended, their run may not be over. On Monday, the NCAA granted spring sports athletes an extra year of eligibility for players who elect to return. Teams and players seem excited about the ruling, but all of the logistics seem unclear. Embury even said the ruling “raises more questions than answers.”
Jason Intermesoli, a junior midfielder, also weighed in on the NCAA’s decision, saying he’s “talked to a couple of [teammates] but the news only came a few days ago and I don’t want to pressure them. We’d love to have them back but some people will make the decision to move on and we all respect that.”
As for the MAAC championship defense tour, the Foxes will have to wait another year to defend their crown. Intermesoli, who was tied for the second-most assists in the MAAC this season with 12, said it will be motivation for the group. “We’re all hard-working guys and next season teams will still look at us as the reigning MAAC champions,” he said. “So we’re still going to have a target on our back. We’re going to work even harder this off-season.”
While both Intermesoli and Embury acknowledged that the COVID-19 situation was unfortunate, they are doing their parts to stay active and prepared. The whole team split up to go home around March 14, but Embury is fortunate to have a teammate at home with him. His twin brother, Hunter, is a midfielder on the Marist team and they’ve been passing and shooting in the backyard together.
Intermesoli said he’s lucky enough to have a gym in his garage with the necessary equipment to continue training and stay in shape. “I’ve been out there every day.”
Aside from staying active, a lot of the guys have been teaming up to play games on XBOX. “It’s one of the few forms of communication we still have,” said Intermesoli.
The disappointment of the season being canceled will stick with the players for the time being, but the players are already looking forward to next year, when — ideally — they’re all back for another go. “Anticipation is going to be at an all-time high,” Embury said.
“After months of being apart, we’re going to be ready to go for sure.”
Edited by Will Bjarnar
Header photo by Mike Cahill