Marist Falls to Niagara in a Close and Interrupted Contest

Marist women’s lacrosse took the field at Tenney Stadium for the first time today since March 12, when they beat Monmouth University

After their first two games, the campus was placed on a pause that suspended all athletics for five weeks. The teams were not allowed to practice, while the rest of the conference continued as usual. 

Yesterday, women’s lacrosse received the go-ahead to resume play. The women traveled to Siena, where they lost 17-11. 24 hours later, they were ready to go on Tenney to face Niagara University, where they would lose late in the game 12-11. 

“We haven’t practiced at all, in almost 40 days,” head coach Jessica Wilkinson said. “It’s insane, and there is a lot to take away from playing two back to back games. I know we lost both games but I am really proud of what we have seen without any sort of practice. That gives me a lot of confidence in this team.”

The game opened with a draw control win from senior attacker Isabelle Stockman, and with quality chances on both sides, the game was scoreless for the first ten minutes. Niagara got on the board first after Marist freshman midfielder Maddie Schrader received a yellow card for a check to the head on graduate student midfielder Shea Swartwout. Swartwout cleanly put away the free position shot from the second hash. 

After senior goalie Delaney Galvin picked up a turnover, it led to an opportunity on offense for Marist. Senior attacker Devon Connolly fired a shot wide and Marist chased the ball out of bounds to continue their possession. Senior attacker Alex Di Chiara split-dodged her defender and fired the ball past junior Preseason All-MAAC goalie Michelle Messenger to even the score. It was Di Chiara’s fourth goal in the past two games after earning a hat trick yesterday. 

The back and forth action carried on throughout the first half as Marist overtook the lead briefly after sophomore attacker Kerri Gutenberger shot the ball running across the eight-meter arc. Swartwout and freshman attacker Lexi Branecki would retake the lead for the Purple Eagles. The Red Foxes kept the pressure on, as junior midfielder Melissa Bucher caught a pass from Di Chiara and evened the score at three. 

The teams were again scoreless for a few minutes until Schrader scored her second collegiate goal of her career. The Purple Eagles called a timeout but responded with another equalizer afterwards, this time from redshirt freshman midfielder Rachel Crane. A fastbreak opportunity left the Red Foxes in a four-on-two situation that Niagara graduate student midfielder Alexandra Leo capitalized on to take the lead, but Gutenberger responded with her second of the game to keep the game tied heading into the second half. 

The Red Fox defense was solid in the loss, with tons of forced turnovers and hustle to pick up the 50/50 balls. Senior captain defender Romy Villamure had a spectacular play, where she stripped Swartwout of the ball when she wasn’t paying attention. Junior defender Sheridan DeVito hustled to pick up a ground ball which caused the transition that led to Schrader’s goal. 

After an hour and a half weather delay due to a sudden thunderstorm, Marist came out fired up with three goals in the first two minutes of the second half. Connolly, graduate student attacker Sam Mehalick and senior attacker Kelly George on a free position shot to overtake their largest lead of the game.

“It felt comical,” Coach Wilkinson said of the delay. “We are used to the waiting game. We understand what it means to be told ‘next week, next week, next week’ in terms of what it means to play again. We just rolled with it.”

Niagara called a timeout after the Red Foxes hot start, and won the draw afterwards and settled down on offense. Galvin turned away two shots before Marist settled down on attack. Connolly had the ball on the elbow when Gutenberger caught her defender not looking. She caught the ball and quickly released it into the top corner to extend the lead to four and earned her second career hat trick. 

Branecki responded with a crease roll on Galvin to draw the game closer, but the defense continued to show up and apply the pressure. Connolly scored her second of the game to bring the score for Marist to double digits halfway through the second half. 

Galvin finished the game with 11 saves, more than half of them in the second half. 

The physicality picked up a bit with Niagara applying a lot of force on their ride. Players were getting knocked around but despite the aggressiveness, Marist was able to continue to dominate with Mehalick picking up loose change in front of the net for her second goal of the game. 

Niagara brought the score to be within two with six minutes to play in the game. A media timeout would prove to be crucial for both teams as they conversed and collected their thoughts for the next few possessions. After Di Chiara’s shot was saved, Niagara countered quickly and Swartwout scored her fourth goal to take the game within one. 

With 3:39 left on the clock, Swartwout passed on a free position to graduate student midfielder Audrey Fithall to tie the game at 11. Marist freshman defender Bella D’Gracia was awarded a charge call, and Marist was set to go on offense but an errant pass would send the ball back down towards Galvin. Defense was unable to catch a break, as Swartwout scored her fifth goal with 16 seconds to go to overtake the lead. 

“We just tried to play for ourselves today,” Gutenberger said. “Coming straight from our quarantine to two games back to back, it was just getting our touch back together. I think we played pretty beautiful for not practicing for 40 days.”

The Red Foxes fall to 2-2 on their season, and head into their game against Fairfield University on Saturday, April 24 to play the Stags who currently lead the conference.

Edited by Bridget Reilly

Photo Credit: Riley Griffin

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