After a historic run in the 2020-2021 season, ending in a MAAC Championship and trip to the first round of the NCAA tournament, the four new faces of the Marist women’s basketball team have some big shoes to fill.
Ahead of the 2021-2022 season, the Red Foxes welcome three freshmen and one second-year transfer from Syracuse University.
Siobhan Boylan, a five-foot-11 freshman guard, is one of the new faces to the Red Foxes’ lineup this season. From Morton, Pennsylvania, right outside Philadelphia, Boylan started playing basketball at a young age.
“I started playing basketball because my dad was coaching my sister. From there, I just started picking up what he was teaching her,” said Boylan.
Boylan played in the well-regarded Catholic League, where she attended Cardinal O’Hara High School. She was selected to the All-Catholic and All-Delaware County Second Teams during her junior season. In her senior year, which was impacted by the pandemic, Boylan earned a spot on the All-Catholic Third Team in the Red Division.
While listed as a guard, Boylan played on the wing and in the paint in high school, posting up down low and spacing out on the perimeter. In addition, Boylan played volleyball in high school. In fact, this is the first year she has not played volleyball, which has been new for her to navigate.
So far, Boylan says the transition to Marist has been great but notes the difference in intensity the game has at the collegiate level.
“It is a lot more intense. It is a much quicker game. The three-point line got pushed further back this year, so that is a huge difference for me. Mainly though, I just noticed the speed of the game has changed and picked up.”
A strong three-point shooter, Marist will look to use Boylan to knock down critical shots from the arc while helping spread the ball around as well. In her junior year, Boylan helped lead her team to the District 12 Class 6A title. Unfortunately, the pandemic ended Boylan’s season which ended with her team reaching the quarterfinals of the PIAA Class 6A tournament.
The pandemic has affected the recruiting process for all of these newcomers, minimizing their ability to see the campus and meet the coaches in person.
For Boylan, she was recruited in the heart of the pandemic which made it difficult for her to get a feel for the school.
“I was recruited during COVID, so I did not get an official visit or anything like that. It was different for sure. I got to meet the coaches over Zoom and all of the contact was over the phone. My high school coach knew all of the coaches here, and then after I came to see the campus, I committed right after.”
Likewise, six-foot-three freshman forward McKenna Rife committed during the pandemic.
“My process of committing was a whirlwind process. It all happened within a few weeks leading into the summer of my senior year. Once they gave me an official offer, I said yes in a matter of a few days after meeting with the coaches.”
From Hagerstown, Maryland, Rife was pushed to play basketball starting at four or five years old.
Rife’s father, who played basketball at Penn State, and her mother, who played basketball throughout high school, influenced Rife to pick up a ball for two reasons—because she was tall and it was as if it was part of her blood. As much as she tried to stop playing, she admits she fell in love with it.
Rife attended St. Maria Goretti High School, where she played both the four and five. She averaged 10.3 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 1.1 steals per game and earned 2020-2021 WCAA Girls Private School First Team honors.
Rife will look to make her way into the lineup, specifically helping the Red Foxes down low with the departure of former first-year freshman Caitlin Weimar who had a strong freshman campaign. Marist’s second shot opportunities and defensive pressure in the paint will be a major factor to Marist’s success this season, and Rife will be faced with some challenging opponents early.
Like Boylan, Rife notes the change in intensity she has seen during these first few months of training.
“The intensity of the game is definitely the biggest difference. It is a lot faster than high school and has been different to adjust to.”
However, Rife, along with Boylan, is taking everything in stride as the season is just a few short days away. The Red Foxes hit the road right off the bat, which seems to excite the recruits.
“I am most excited for our Arizona trip. I have never been to Arizona before, so that should be fun,” Rife says.
Boylan agreed, “For all of high school, I played locally. So one thing I am really looking forward to is traveling and playing at different schools. I know that will be really exciting and fun, so I am looking forward to that.”
In addition to Boylan and Rife, Marist also welcomed five-foot-11 freshman guard Catie Cunnigham from Syracuse, New York.
Cunningham attended West Genesee High School, where she averaged 25.1 points per game with 8.4 rebounds per game in her senior year.
Cunningham helped her team make appearances in New York State’s Final Four in both 2018 and 2019. Like Boylan, Cunningham is a versatile player that can play multiple positions.
She is nifty on defense and can be an immediate difference-maker on offense in any game. She is an explosive player and can score down low and mid-range. With a high basketball IQ, Cunningham looks to be a great addition to the Red Foxes, who have some significant needs on the offensive side of the ball.
Unlike these three true freshmen, Marist worked the transfer portal for sophomore transfer Kiara Fisher.
Fisher, who stands at five-foot-seven, played her first year of collegiate basketball at Syracuse. She is originally from Elmira, New York, 90 minutes south of Syracuse.
While at Syracuse, Fisher played in 10 games while making one start. She averaged three points per game and drained seven of her 11 attempted three-pointers.
Fisher is poised to have an immediate impact as she takes the court with the Red Foxes this season. The intensity and exposure she gained at Syracuse have allowed her to see strong competition, which she believes is always beneficial when gearing up for a new season.
Agreeing with the freshmen, Fisher notes how the speed of the game is a change that she has noticed in her time playing college basketball.
“You have to know a lot more. There are a lot of specific things you have to do. You have to know your role and how to execute that in a game.”
Along with Fisher’s presence in the backcourt, Boylan and Cunnigham will have big roles as well with the departure of Best in the offensive scheme. We may also see these two, along with Rife, make an appearance down low to help forwards junior Samantha Bailey and sophomore Zaria Demember-Shazer in the paint.
Another benefit to Fisher’s arrival is her prior playing experience in High School and AAU with current Red Foxes junior guard Trinasia Kennedy and Demember-Shazer. These three are sure to find some rhythm early in the season.
In the interactions between Fisher with Rife and Boylan, it was evident that Fisher already has a leadership role, as she hyped the two freshmen up and helped them answer some questions, giving them reassurance and affirmation. Fisher, smiling the whole interview, seemed eager and excited to be with the Red Foxes and for what is to come for the season.
The Red Foxes are set to debut on November 9 on the road against Drexel at 5 p.m. while making their home debut on November 12 at 7 p.m. Keep an eye out on these four newcomers as the Red Foxes look to defend their MAAC title this season.
Edited by Bridget Reilly and Jonathan Kinane