The Comeback Kids: Marist Women Look to End the MAAC Tournament on Their Terms this Year

Approaching the anniversary of the MAAC Tournament’s cancelation last season, the Marist College women’s basketball team finds itself there again, making a push for the title.

Last year, the team was just two games shy of winning the MAAC Tournament before their season came to an abrupt end. Leaving the team in a quarry of despair and mystery for when their season would start again. For those senior girls on the basketball team, they never got to see the court again.

Beginning Monday the women’s basketball team will be making another run for the MAAC title in Atlantic City but this time, with a twist. The girls will be competing without any fans being physically present in the arena. With the best record in the conference, only holding three losses to their name this season, there is a lot of momentum and a lot to prove going into this year’s tournament.

The Marist women’s basketball team is entering the championship their second straight tournament being the number one seed. The Red Foxes have received a first round bye and will not play their first game in the tournament until today at 12 p.m. against ninth seed Siena.

Luckily for senior Allie Best, she got one more chance to help her team bring back the title to Poughkeepsie and the Red Fox den. Best is the starting guard and is one of the two seniors on the team. She has been a key part to the lineup this season.

Best’s consistency and durability shows on the court. She has played and started in all 18 games this season while averaging 33.3 minutes per game. Best’s assist/turnover ratio is 4.55 in her senior season.

Despite the fact that the basketball season is coming to an end, they were the first teams at the college to return to play since the start of the pandemic. All the other sports teams faced canceled or postponed seasons.

“It feels amazing and something I am extremely thankful for,” Best said. “The season wasn’t guaranteed for anybody and there are a few schools across the country that didn’t get a season this year.”

The women’s basketball team clearly did not get the ending that they desired for last season, but are grateful that they were able to have a season this year even though it is a short one, with only 18 games in the regular season.

“I think all of us are really excited to have the opportunity to go to the MAAC tournament again,” said Best. “I think we are really looking forward to getting the opportunity again and hopefully ending it on our terms this year.”

The season has been anything but normal due to the COVID-19 pandemic with many restrictions for team and staff safety. However, having no fans has altered the dynamic of the arena and gameplay.

Assistant coach Erin Doughty is a Marist alum and played on the basketball team from 2002-2005. She is currently in her 16th season with the team and her third season as the associate head coach for the women’s basketball team. Doughty also serves as the program’s recruiting coordinator.

“I think there is definitely a piece missing, especially at Marist,” Doughty said. “Their parents and families not being able to come to games is a big thing. Part of it is, they know that their parents are going to be able to come to games … go out to dinner after the game things like that and that piece has been taken away … that’s a struggle that we are all kind of going through.”

The support of family and friends, before, during, and after the game was important not only to the athletes, but to the coaching staff as well. Unfortunately, this aspect of the game has now been taken away from them. This has been an adjustment to everyone on the team and still a work in progress as it becomes the new normal.

“I have two kids that love coming to the games and now they’re not able to come,” Doughty said. “That’s a piece that I don’t know has impacted our playing negatively but it’s definitely something that’s hard and difficult to deal with and an adjustment.”

Although Marist is not allowed to have their own fans cheering them on in the stands, they can still count on their loyal fanbase outside the court to tune in virtually to support the Red Foxes on their journey. As most games were broadcasted throughout the season, the MAAC tournament will continue to follow and be aired on ESPN+ or ESPN 3 for all to see.

Gearing up for the tournament that begins this week, the Red Foxes are eager to show their fiery determination to win the championship, a goal they have had set since the end of last season. With a lot of talent to display, and adversity overcome throughout the pandemic, the women’s basketball team has trained together much stronger than before to be ready to make a final push for the coveted title, MAAC Champions.

“We are making sure we are all on the same page in terms of our offense and defense, working on getting better at things,” Doughty said. “That’s kind of our goal is to get better everyday. Shorter practices but high intensity so that we are ready for the MAAC Tournament.”

Where times are unpredictable, the diligence and commitment to their team makes the Marist women’s basketball team a top contender for the title, and a tough opponent to beat. No matter where the season took them, they were to do what they do best, and bring home the pride and hardware that coincide with their efforts stemming beyond the court.

Edited by Bridget Reilly

Photo Credit: Michael Cahill

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