The Marist men’s lacrosse was picked to win the MAAC in the preseason polls. The team has a record of 1-4 with losses to Rutgers, Binghamton, Jacksonville, and Bellarmine. The Scarlet Knights and Dolphins are both nationally ranked while Bellarmine received votes to be ranked at one point this season.
Marist is looking to continue their momentum from their first win of the season against Bucknell this past weekend. Graduate attackman JoJo Pirreca lifted his team to a win with a career-high six goals. Pirreca is ninth in the MAAC, averaging 3 points per game and sixth in the league with 2.40 goals per game.
Marist has a big task ahead as they start MAAC play this weekend against Wagner. The Seahawks have the same record as Marist, 1-4.
Head coach Keegan Wilkinson likes to pack his non-conference games with ranked teams or borderline ranked teams because it gives his team experience playing good teams once they hit MAAC play.
“That has always been our philosophy to schedule a really difficult non-conference schedule,” said Wilkinson. “It is not just for preparation for MAAC play, it is to compete with those teams. Unfortunately this year we took some tough growing pain losses, but we needed it. It has really helped us as we got better each game.”
The Faceoff X is one of the most important positions on the field. Marist has had a two-man rotation. The Red Foxes are riding the hot hand.
Against Jacksonville, sophomore Dylan Bedell went 16-of-22 and last weekend against Bucknell, senior Matt Fermo went 14-of-22. It is clear that Wilkinson is playing whoever gets hot.
As usual, the MAAC is loaded with competition, now more than ever with five more teams being added.
“That is the interesting thing that we are going to see with these five not only new schools but teams we haven’t played in a while,” said Wilkinson. “It is definitely going to make it more competitive and different. Going into this first one with Wagner, I went into the ESPN+ games and watched them play and get used to them..we start MAAC play March 11th and I am excited about it.”
The usual suspects are atop the MAAC in the non-conference standings, with the reigning champions Manhattan leading a pack that includes Quinnipiac and Siena. The Jaspers and the Saints both return production from last year and will be a tough out come May during tournament time.
“We are trying to keep that same detailed leveled approach with all of our games, no matter the opponents,” said Wilkinson. “Like I said, coming in with some news faces here Wagner on the horizon it is going to be a lot more film… Wagner is going to give us a heck of a fight this weekend.”
Marist needed a goalie to step up and replace Anthony Novellano. Sophomore Noble Smith has been excellent this season for his team. He has 54 saves so far and has been keeping the Red Foxes in games throughout all five contests.
“Really proud of our goalies, and Noble who has stepped in as a starter. The last few weeks we think he’s done a heck of a job and the defense in front of him has done a heck of a job as well giving him shots he wants to see. Noble is representing the goalie room right now and he has done it in a respectful manner,” said Wilkinson.
What does Marist need to do in order to separate themselves and put it atop of the MAAC?
The simple answer is that the Red Foxes need to play to their strengths. Their strength is feeding their leading goal scorers, Pirreca, graduate attackman Jamison Embury and graduate midfielder James Lyons. The duo draws attention from defenders which will lead to others getting open shots and opportunities to score.
Their defense has been up and down this year but their anchor graduate defender Kyle Stofko just won MAAC Defensive Player of the Week and needs to continue to be the voice and leader of the defense. He had career highs in caused turnovers (3) and ground balls (5) in last week’s win against Bucknell. Stofko will be looking to continue his stellar play against Wagner, a school he played two seasons for.
While the early portion of the schedule had its challenges, there is no counting this team out when it comes to winning the MAAC Tournament.
The Marist Red Foxes will host the Wagner Seahawks Saturday at 7 p.m. at Tenney Stadium for the start of MAAC play.
Edited by Jonathan Kinane and Isabella Cicinelli
Photo from Marist Athletics