After a long-awaited 45 days, the Marist Men’s Lacrosse team finally returned to action under the lights of Tenney Stadium against the Quinnipiac Bobcats, the #2 seed in the MAAC. Due to Marist’s campus-wide pause due to rising COVID-19 cases, the men’s lacrosse team had yet to play or practice since mid-March. In a rematch from the 2019 MAAC Championship — where the Red Foxes took home the MAAC title with a final score of 15-14 — the Bobcats looked to continue their three-game win streak and get revenge on the Red Foxes.
However, the Red Foxes were prepared despite their 45-day absence from action. The excitement from the team was contagious as they tallied their eight straight MAAC win with a final score of 14-9.
At about 5:30 p.m. last night, head coach Keegan Wilkinson got the call that the team was officially set to play tonight. “We did not have a practice, all we had was about a one-hour shootaround this afternoon, but other than that we had not been on the field for that extended period,” he said. “The real significance tonight is that we made it through that month or so where it was extremely difficult. There were a lot of times for us as a program where it was tough.”
“I am extremely proud of the guys for sticking together and I think what happened tonight is honestly just a reflection of our seniors and our fifth-years for keeping the guys together and motivated,” he continued. “That is just fortunate for us as we have a strong culture where the guys do not make excuses and do not look for ways out.”
Indeed, no excuses were made for the Red Foxes. With just 47 seconds into the first quarter senior midfielder Jason Intermesoli — who recorded two goals and one assist on the evening — scored a solo shot to put Marist up 1-0 early. However, with such a long period without playing collective lacrosse, sloppiness was imminent. Following Intermesoli’s shot, the cobwebs began to show. Between the sloppy clears and messy shots, Quinnipiac went on a 3-0 scoring run, netting shots from junior midfielder Will Abbott, first-year attackman Dylan Donnery and senior defenseman Matt Di Lella.
Marist began to find some rhythm near the end of the first quarter as senior attackman Vito Musso (three goals) found the net for the first time with 5:51 remaining and junior attackman Jojo Pirreca (three goals, two assists) cashed in off an assist from fifth-year midfielder Joe Tierney (two assists, one goal) shortly after. “We were just excited to get out there and play lacrosse and do what we do,” Pirreca said. “We know that we do that best and we were ready to play and ready to go.”
The Red Foxes set the pace at the end of the first quarter as junior attackman Jamison Embury (two goals, one assist) found twin brother and junior midfielder Hunter Embury (two goals) with a SportsCenter Top 10 worthy behind-the-back feed, putting the Red Foxes up 4-3. Quinnipiac tied it up at the end of the quarter thanks to a score from first-year midfielder Steven Germain.
After a sloppy first quarter, the Red Foxes came out strongly in the second, looking as if they didn’t just miss over five weeks of games and practices. “We were off for five weeks, but we are Division I lacrosse players and we do know how to do these things properly,” senior defenseman Kyle Stofko said. “We just had to get our kinks out in the first quarter.”
The momentum found its way to the Red Foxes’ side early as they capitalized off of a man-up scenario. After a series of misfires, Pierreca scored his second goal of the night, giving Marist a 5-4 lead with 9:44 remaining in the first half.
Marist went on a 4-0 scoring run in the second quarter as Quinnipiac totaled eight turnovers in the quarter to Marist’s one. The defense played light outs after a sloppy start. Stofko set the tone with four ground balls and three caused turnovers. “At the end of the first quarter it was 4-4 because we were not clearing the ball right. We got together at the break of the first and second quarter and just told everyone to slow it down and take their time and do our thing,” Stofko said.
Junior defenseman JT Roselle followed behind Stofko’s lead, tallying two ground balls and causing three turnovers. Senior defenseman Sam Ahlgrim nabbed two ground balls and one caused turnover and sophomore defenseman Kurt Wessner caused one as well. Freshman goalie Logan Covey finished with another dominant performance after his debut on March 6th with 14 saves tonight. Senior faceoff specialist Andrew Evans was just 8-27 at the circle as he struggled against junior midfielder Demitri George. However, Marist entered the half with an 8-4 lead.
“The message to the team at the end of the day was that we knew it was not going to be the prettiest lacrosse for 60 minutes,” Wilkinson said. “We knew we were going to make mistakes, but we needed to be relentless in our attitude and make sure that we were sticking together and doing the little things as well as we can.”
“We were not making excuses about it,” Pierreca said. “We were keeping our sticks up and were getting ready to play whenever we got the call. We were always ready. We were just excited to get out there and play lacrosse and do what we do. We know that we do that best and we were ready to play and ready to go.”
Coming out of the half, Quinnipiac sophomore attackman Jake Tellers found the net with 13:39 remaining in the third quarter. With a slow, back-and-forth quarter, Germain scored for the Bobcats, making it 8-6 with 9:52 remaining. Finally, after nearly 10 minutes, Hunter Embury got Marist on the board at the end of the third quarter.
With a slow third quarter, the Red Foxes came out stronger in the fourth with a Jamison Embury goal, assisted by Tierney, making the score 10-6. Two minutes later, Pierreca completed the hat trick with 11:26 remaining.
Quinnipiac tried to make a comeback late in the fourth with a goal from sophomore attackman John Delucia. However, the Red Foxes were not letting anyone stop them on their return to the field. Musso netted his third goal of the night to make it 12-7 with 7:53 remaining. Tellers added another goal for Quinnipiac for one last attempt at salvaging a win.
However, after a huge save from Covey, Intermesoli scored with 4:29 remaining. Ending the game with huge smiles, long-stick midfielder Anthony Filippetti netted one final goal — his first of the season — for the Foxes.
“Quinnipiac has developed into a huge rival for us and we have met them a couple of times in championship games. We have had some tough battles with them and they played hard tonight and they have been playing really well all season,” Wilkinson said.
With such a long wait for the Red Foxes to make their way back to the field, the team was full of gratitude tonight. “I don’t think there are words to describe how happy we were. The word I always think of is grateful,” Stofko said. “I was just grateful to get out there and play.”
With the pause in play lifted, Marist is set to play one final game against Manhattan this Saturday, April 24th, at 7 pm. The MAAC Tournament is set to begin on April 30. With the season back in action, Pirreca says the goal for the Red Foxes remains the same. “Just go as far as we can. I think we are just scratching the surface as to how good we can be. We have a lot of returners and we are ready to go as far as we can. Our potential is limitless.”
Edited by Sam DiGiovanni
Photo from Marist Athletics