The Long Never-Lost Love for Lacrosse

“A team is only as great as their coach,” is a phrase athletes and fans have heard numerous times. Being a coach of a sport is arguably the hardest part of participating in a game you love. For Marist women’s lacrosse though, their bench bosses are three of the programs finest. 

Marist women’s lacrosse had their first NCAA Division I season in 1997, with their first win coming from a face-off against Duquesne University. Since then, women’s lacrosse has been a staple Red Fox sport where the athletes compete for the coveted MAAC Championship. The 2008 team was one that not only Coach Jessica Wilkinson was a part of, but the star image as the squad clinched their first MAAC title.

Wilkinson played lacrosse at Marist from 2005 to 2008. During this time, she scored 42 goals in 51 games, with a career high 20 goals during her swan song season. To top it off, she had 47 draw controls, 51 caused turnovers, and 86 ground balls during her tenure as a Marist player. These 51 turnovers placed Wilkinson at ninth in the record book, a position she holds with former teammate and Marist lacrosse legend Lindsey Diener ‘08. Additionally, 22 of those turnovers came in her senior season, putting Wilkinson at ninth place in the Red Fox record book for single season caused turnovers. 

Quite the resume, huh?

Winning the ‘08 MAAC Championship did not stop Wilkinson there. Now, the record holder is the winningest coach in Marist women’s lacrosse history. 

The statistics don’t lie. Wilkinson was no doubt a powerhouse for the Red Foxes during her career. A versatile player, who is well versed in all aspects of the game. It’s no wonder she has the most wins. At the end of the day, it all adds up. 

One of the assistant coaches, Tierney Larson ‘14 played 62 games for the Red Foxes and obtained 107 career points. Her 51 assists in 2013 have Larson at the number one spot in the record book for highest assists in a single season. In total, she had 78 assists, placing her third for individual career assists. She scored 26 goals in total, which might not put her in the record books, but still proves she could put the ball in the back of the net when it mattered. 

Larson’s first season as an assistant coach was cut short due to the global pandemic, but that does not take away from the impact she made. This season the offense was lights out when it came to sharing the ball and making plays, which is a skill Larson was not a stranger to. Her specialty on the field as a player was feeding the ball through “X,” a position located behind the opposing team’s net. It’s crucial for “X” players to have a great vision to see the gaps, in turn, feeding the players that are dodging and cutting down from the top of the 12 meter arc. A vision Coach Larson shares with her offense, she knew how the offense needed to set up and the risks that needed to be taken to send the ball into the net with no mercy. 

The current co-assistant coach, Hailey Wagner is one of the youngest coaches at Marist. As a recent graduate of the class of 2019, she is tied for first with 71 games played during her career. In the draw circle, Wagner was not only the most dominant player in the MAAC, but in the entire nation. Her 224 draw controls during her senior season is an NCAA record. Totaling 573 draw controls in her career, she sits alone at number one in the record book, along with 162 career points placing her sixth in the career points category.

Wagner’s impact on the draw did not stop after she received her diploma. Rather, the team continued controlling the circle, winning the free balls in the air or on the ground. Having Wagner on the sideline enabled previous teammates to experiment and take the draw. With her guidance, Marist will be commanding the draw for years to come. 

So, what does it really mean to the program to have coaches that once were in the same position as the current members of the team? How does it amplify the culture surrounding Marist women’s lacrosse? 

“It adds another extra layer of trust in that we know what we’re doing. Especially myself being the most recent grad, I can feel myself relating the student athlete perspective to the coaching staff,” said Wagner. “I can be the bridge between the players and us.”

Wagner also spoke on how all of the coaches have so much passion, love and pride for the game of lacrosse. Nothing truly changes in this regard after taking off the cap and gown. 

“Marist lacrosse isn’t just what we work for. It’s a part of who we are,” Wagner explained.

Prospective student athletes who are looking to further their athletic career in college, come to Marist and see if it is a good fit. Learning that the coaching staff is three alumni, “goes to show that however long ago we were students, playing here has left such a profound impact on all of us,” Wagner said. 

All three coaches of Marist’s women’s lacrosse team proved themselves on the field when it was their time to wear the red and white. Even with record holding stats, at the end of the day, we can all agree that Coach Wilkinson, Coach Larson, and Coach Wagner are here to bring this team back to the MAAC championship spotlight. It’s a task that is truly feasible with their lacrosse knowledge, skill, and leadership paving the path for the program.

Edited by Bridget Reilly

Header photo by Marist Athletics

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