Last spring, the NCAA granted an extra year of eligibility to Division I spring athletes whose seasons abruptly ended because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many Marist athletes, including seniors, jumped at the opportunity to return the following season.
Heads quickly turned to Marist Men’s Lacrosse. The Red Foxes secured the MAAC Championship title in 2019 and were ranked first in the MAAC preseason poll in 2020. Despite the recent success, questions arose about who would be returning and the impact this would have on the team’s scholarships.
Joe Tierney, Sam Ahlgrim, Jon Constant, Wyatt Colangelo, Jack Zukowski, and Jake Weinman were some of those who came back for an extra year of eligibility. Their returns did not have an impact on the scholarship limitations because the NCAA’s decision came so late. Though there is an increase of players on the roster, the redshirt seniors do not count against the team, but the freshmen through current seniors do still have to be within limitations.
“It would have been really tough to juggle that with the incoming recruits already having signed their national letters of intent,” said Head Coach Keegan Wilkinson.
There will be an effect on scholarships beginning next year. Redshirt seniors will have to be worked into the equivalencies, counting against the team.
“It will be a little different to manage that this year,” said Wilkinson.
Most of the incoming freshmen players had already committed to the team before the NCAA’s decision was made. The average college lacrosse roster size in a typical season is 48. Entering this unique season, the Red Foxes boast a roster size of 48 players, a smaller number based on the uptick in returners along with the entering freshmen.
“We’re thankful that we have a pretty small roster which allows us to manage the team a little bit differently than those teams that have really big rosters,” said Wilkinson.
For high school athletes that are in the recruiting process, this decision is making it more difficult as college teams will be required to account for who returns in the future.
“There’s definitely a lot more conversations that need to be had between the staff and the players just to feel out which guys might be interested in coming back and using that redshirt year that they were granted,” noted Wilkinson.
Despite the potential problems this poses for the future, the opportunities for the seniors to return should be instrumental in the team’s success for the upcoming season.
“I know I can speak on behalf of the entire team and the program that everybody talked about it and was really happy that our seniors were granted the opportunity to return,” Coach Wilkinson said.
Ahlgrim, one of the team’s starting defensemen, knew his chance to play another year was something he could not refuse.
“I really just wanted to come back and spend time with the guys here and hopefully win another championship,” said Ahlgrim.
Along with Ahlgrim came Tierney, last season’s senior captain. The native of Bethpage, New York announced his acceptance of the extra year of eligibility in May.
“I thank Marist for giving us the chance to play again and further our education,” said Tierney. “I talked a lot over the summer with my family, the coaches, and some [of my] teammates. This is something I’ve been a part of for four years and it really was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I’m hoping positive things happen in the season ahead.”
The Red Foxes were off to a stellar start to the 2020 season, leading the MAAC in nine of 16 team statistical categories to end the season. The mixture of returning players and young talent has already led to a lot of excitement for the upcoming season. The seniors all hope to make the most of their second chance.
Edited by Jonathan Kinane & Dave Connelly