Call it something of a happy accident. These games weren’t supposed to happen. Well, not yet anyway.
The Fairfield Stags were initially scheduled to play the Niagara Purple Eagles until some of Niagara’s personnel tested positive for COVID-19, which led to the series being postponed. This left Fairfield scurrying to find a replacement matchup for the weekend before Christmas. Enter the undefeated Marist College Red Foxes, who are now playing Fairfield on Friday and Saturday, a month before the teams were originally scheduled to meet.
Who, What, When, and Where?
Marist (4-0, 2-0 MAAC) vs Fairfield (3-1, 2-0 MAAC)
Dates: Friday, December 18 and Saturday, December 19
Location: Alumni Hall, Fairfield, CT
TV: Friday ESPN3, Saturday ESPN+, both games tip-off at 7 p.m.
Series History: Marist leads 36-20
Current Streak: Marist has won five out of the last six games, with the exception being a loss last season at Alumni Hall on January 30, the most recent Marist loss
Last Game: Marist cruised over the Stags 75-45 at McCann on February 24
Red Foxes Keys to Victory
There’s no question about it. These two games against Fairfield are going to be Marist’s biggest challenge yet. If they want to make it through the weekend with an undefeated record, Marist will have to play the same type of intense, physical defense they played against Albany. In that game, Marist swatted away five shots, came up with eight steals, and forced the Great Danes into 15 turnovers. The only issue for Marist was that they matched these turnovers with fifteen of their own. They’ll have to limit these turnovers if they hope to beat Fairfield, whose offense scored 26 points off of turnovers in their last game.
The Red Foxes will also have to keep up their elite style of play in the paint, where they have dominated on the glass and scored a total of 102 points in their last three games. Much of this success is thanks to post players Willow Duffel and Caitlin Weimar, who both achieved a double-double in one of the past two games.
Red Fox to Watch
I could go with one of the bigs here, but I think Trinasia Kennedy has the potential to be a difference-maker in these matchups. In her game against Albany, Kennedy played tight defense and finished with two steals, a category where she places second on the team. Against Fairfield, she’ll likely be matched up against Sam Lewis, who played at an absolute sensational level in her last two games. If Kennedy can limit Lewis’ production to even half of what it has been, then Marist can turn their attention toward Lou Lopez-Senechal and Katie Armstrong, two all-conference caliber players..
Stags Keys to Victory
As I said, Fairfield’s Sam Lewis has been playing tremendously. She’s been playing so well that she was named the MAAC Player of the Week after scoring a whopping 39 points and making 11 three-pointers in Saturday’s game against Siena. Those 11 threes set a Fairfield and MAAC record for the most three-pointers in a game, and it tied for the sixth-most three-pointers in a game in NCAA history. If Lewis remains hot against Marist, then she will be able to lead the Stags to a win or two over the weekend.
Fairfield is also going to have to attack the boards aggressively to win the game. All season, Marist has been great at rebounding the ball, both offensively and defensively. If Fairfield can get a few second-chance points and limit Marist’s ability to rebound the ball after a missed shot, then they may slow down Marist’s offensive efficiency enough to win.
Stag to Watch
Sam Lewis is going to be the one to watch all game. She scored 21 points and 39 points in back-to-back games against Siena. If Lewis continues to score with this type of efficiency, then she will be a crucial factor in a possible Fairfield victory. If she isn’t as efficient in the two games against Marist, then the Stags still have Armstrong and Lopez-Senechal, but having someone who can score like Lewis is a complete game-changer.
This game has the potential to shape the MAAC standings for the rest of the season, as both teams have a piece of the early conference lead. A win in either of these games has big implications for both teams, which could potentially drive the athletes to play harder than they have all season. With that in mind, I see Marist and Fairfield splitting wins over the weekend, as both teams are extremely talented and are still establishing their identity and finding their rhythm in this early half of the season.
Edited by Jonathan Kinane
Photo Courtesy of Marist Athletics