After only two full weeks in the pool for games and practice, Marist defeated Salem University 9-8 in the first round of the NCAA Women’s Water Polo Tournament. It was the Red Foxes’ third NCAA Tournament win and their first triumph in a non-consolation game.
“I am happy that we won because I was thinking we had to go into overtime,” Viktoria Orlova said. “I think we played a bit worse than how we usually play, but a lot of us were nervous. I am excited for the game on Friday and think it will challenge us because we haven’t had a lot of time to get in shape.”
From the opening whistle, the game had the makings of an NCAA Tournament contest. With 50 seconds left in the game, India Alter netted her fifth goal of the game to tie things at 8 after a Salem exclusion. Then, in the closing seconds of the game, Tigers’ head coach Justin Kassab attempted to call a timeout without his team possessing the ball, resulting in a penalty shot to Marist. With six seconds left, Myriam Lizotte coolly found the back of the net on a penalty shot to win the game for the Red Foxes.
“I thought it was a lot of fun to play today, and I’m just so excited that we get to move on and play in the next game,” India Alter said. “I knew we could win this game, our team has the potential and we have all the pieces. I’m just so glad that we pulled it off.”
Salem began the game with possession of the ball, but within a minute of play, Alter hit the back of the net with the assist from Shinae Carrington. Only a minute later, Salem gave away the ball, and Alter found the back of the net again with the assist from Kathryn McCullough, giving Marist a 2-0 lead.
Marist held possession of the ball, and Viktoria Orlova got two shots on the cage, but one was blocked, and one missed the net. The Tigers then took the ball down the pool, where Chloe Woodbine found the back of the goal assisted by Lola Gill. After another missed scoring attempt by Orlova, the Tigers took possession of the ball. With only minutes left in the first period, Salem’s Annefleur ten Bloemendal shot and scored, tying the score at 2-2 at the end of the first period.
The second period began with a sprint won by Erin Zappia of Salem, beating Fallon Burnworth to the ball. Zappia swam the ball down the pool and scored with the assist of Margherita Garibbo, giving Salem a one-point lead.
After a Marist offensive foul and a turnover, Salem’s Heather Lock fired a shot to the back of the net with help from Zappia. The Red Foxes went down by two with under four minutes to go in the second period.
With less than two minutes left in the second period, ten Bloemendal scored her second goal of the game with help from Zappia. After multiple Marist attempts at the net and two turnovers, the second period of play ended with Salem leading 5-3.
With a man-up advantage, Marist’s India Alter scored again, this time, with the help of her sister, Sawyer. Marist had two more shots on goal within the next minute, but they were blocked by Philippa Piper, giving Salem a single goal advantage of 5-4.
Less than a minute later, Justine Castro hits the back of the net with an extra attacker, tying the game. With just over three minutes left in the third period, The Red Foxes re-took the lead with a goal from Orlova and the assist by Myriam Lizotte.
A foul was whistled on Lizotte, giving Salem a penalty shot. Salem’s Garibbo took full advantage of the penalty shot and found the back of the net on the five-meter attempt. The game was tied 6-6 going into the final period of play.
After multiple Marist turnovers, Chloe Woodbine of Salem shot, but Marina Hyham came up with the stop. Marist Head Coach Chris Vidale called a timeout with less than four minutes to go in the final period with things still knotted at 6.
“I don’t think we played our best water polo,” Head Coach Chris Vidale said. “We ended up showing some resilience and did what was necessary to win.”
After a turnover, Salem’s Garibbo scored with an assist from Courtney O’Shaughnessy, but Marist quickly got the ball back, and Lizotte scored with help from Sawyer Alter, tying the game at 7.
“I knew the score was tight, but whenever I play I just focus on the present,” Myriam Lizotte said. “I believe in this team and I knew we were capable of winning this game. We want to win the next game of course, but at the end of the day, the game is going to bring a lot to our team because of the level of play.”
After a Marist exclusion, the Tigers took the ball down the pool on a powerplay where Chloe Woodbine scored with help from Erin Zappia. Play was then stopped when Salem got an exclusion called on them, giving Marist a power play. From there, the Red Foxes scored the final two goals to win the game.
Marist advances to the championship bracket and will play the NCAA top-ranked University of Southern California on Friday.
“We are happy that we get to represent Marist by playing the number one team in the country,” Head Coach Chris Vidale said. “I want us to play our style of water polo, and we at least want USC to know that we can play water polo on the East Coast and at Marist.”
Edited by Jonathan Kinane
Photo from Marist Athletics