With the basketball season ending after the Marist men’s team’s loss to Iona in the MAAC Championship Game, the time has come to put all of the focus on the spring season.
Though John Dunne’s team had a regular season to forget, the postseason run marked the closest any Marist team has come to winning a MAAC Championship in the 2022-23 academic year. Other than that, most of the fall and winter sports have not come close to regular or postseason success.
The arrival of spring sports means that traditionally successful programs like men’s lacrosse and water polo are back in the spotlight and are both seeking to win the MAAC Championship after coming up short last season.
With most spring teams either already beginning—or about to begin—conference play, let’s examine how they’ve fared to this point.
Men’s Lacrosse (2-5, 1-1 in the MAAC)
It was another slow start in non-conference play for the Red Foxes, who dropped their first four games of the season against stiff competition. Marist lost to the likes of nationally-ranked Rutgers and Jacksonville before getting on the board with a win at Bucknell.
Keegan Wilkinson’s bunch won its MAAC opener against Wagner, and in the early going of Saturday’s road trip to Canisius, the Red Foxes held a 5-1 lead and seemed primed to make it three wins in a row.
But the Golden Griffins outscored them 17-11 the rest of the way to secure the win and make it a long bus ride back to Poughkeepsie.
Marist is already halfway through its season schedule, with the seven remaining games coming against conference opponents.
It’s no surprise that Jojo Pirreca (17 goals and 7 assists) and Jamison Embury (14 goals and 6 assists) are the leading scorers and point-getters on the squad. James Lyons (11 goals and 7 assists) and Joshua Balcarcel (5 goals and 5 assists) are the other players with double-digit points.
Keep an eye on the faceoff spot as Dylan Bedell and Matt Fermo have split time in the circle. They’ve combined to win just over 50 percent of Marist’s faceoffs, with Fermo getting the reps in the last two games. If the Red Foxes can boost that number, more possessions could translate to more victories.
Women’s Lacrosse (2-6)
A two-game winning streak a couple of weeks ago was a pleasant surprise for the Red Foxes, but they’ve lost four straight since defeating Hofstra on Mar. 1.
The last three defeats have come by at least seven goals, with a 21-6 humbling at Coastal Carolina in the final matchup before MAAC play. The schedule doesn’t do the Red Foxes any favors as they open with three games on the road, including trips to Fairfield and Siena, who were both picked to finish in the top three of the league.
Kerri Gutenberger and Kelly Trotta have been sensational so far this season, but the problem is there isn’t much more offense after that dynamic duo. Trotta is the team’s leader in points with 35 (23 goals and 12 assists), while Gutenberger is the leading scorer (25 goals) and has added 8 assists.
The Red Foxes were picked to finish second-to-last in the MAAC in the preseason poll but will hope to surprise when league play begins on Saturday at Quinnipiac.
Lance Ratchford’s team has been involved in some eye-catching scorelines in the opening weeks of his first season. The Red Foxes fell 33-5 at William & Mary in February and lost 16-14 and 13-12 in consecutive games at Florida International.
The non-conference schedule is often challenging for northeastern teams who have to go south or west to find games that don’t have any risk of being snowed out. As it stands in the MAAC, only Rider and Fairfield have winning records in non-league play.
The Red Foxes have a three-game series at Rhode Island and a game at Army (and old head coach Chris Tracz) left before starting the conference schedule with three games at Quinnipiac at the end of March. It’s also worth noting that Marist won’t play at home until early April.
If the score lines mentioned above don’t already tell you, the Red Foxes need to improve their pitching. Brian Yetter is the team leader in innings pitched but also has an 8.46 ERA. Marist’s team ERA is a painstaking 11.24, and their pitchers have allowed opposing batters to hit .347 on the season.
Against MAAC competition, those numbers should go down in the coming months.
It’s been a similar story for the softball team, with slightly better results. The non-conference schedule has taken Joe Ausanio’s club to Honolulu, Tampa, and Charleston among other destinations.
After the trip to Charleston, the Red Foxes sat at a more-than-respectable 7-9. It’s been a tougher look on the Florida swing, as Marist lost nine of the 10 games it played in Tampa. However, they still managed to hang in against bigger-name squads like Iowa and Illinois.
Conference play begins on Apr. 1, with the Red Foxes also commencing their home schedule that weekend, with doubleheaders against Niagara and Canisius. A lengthy homestand could give the team some momentum as it begins its league campaign.
Redshirt freshman Hayley Ahr has been the team’s standout hitter with a .410 batting average and 25 RBIs through 25 games. On the mound, Calista Phippen is again the leader of the pitching staff and has a 2.14 ERA in 65-plus innings of work. Kiley Myers has been a solid second arm with an ERA sitting just under 3.00.
The Red Foxes should be among the contenders come MAAC tournament time.
Water Polo (14-8, 3-0 in the MAAC)
Let me interject here and say that water polo is a criminally underrated sport. It’s unfortunate that Marist’s only regular-season action at McCann Natatorium came over spring break.
The Red Foxes took care of business in their home pool, sweeping St. Francis Brooklyn (who came in 9-1), Siena, and Mount St. Mary’s at the Courtney Fisher Invite.
This weekend marked the beginning of the conference season for Marist. In the non-conference part of the schedule, the Red Foxes were yet another Marist program that went all over the country to play early-season tournaments. The team took three out of four games at both the Hoosier Invite and the Bruno Classic.
As the MAAC Tournament draws closer, it looks like the Red Foxes have a pretty balanced squad that will hope to get back to the NCAA Tournament.
Men’s Tennis (0-10)
No sugar coating here. It’s been a tough start to the spring season for men’s tennis. The Red Foxes started out with narrow 4-3 losses to Hofstra and Lehigh but haven’t put more than two wins on the board in any match since.
Marist will face MAAC competition in April with hopes of getting some match wins on the board.
Women’s Tennis (2-7)
It’s been at least a little better for the women’s tennis program so far this season. After losing their first two matches of the season, the Red Foxes defeated Lehigh and Binghamton to even their record at 2-2.
Since then, it’s been a string of heavy defeats on the road. Similar to the men, the team will hope to get off the schneid with MAAC play and the conference tournament approaching in April.
Men’s and Women’s Outdoor Track
While the school has yet to post a schedule, the outdoor track season will begin in the coming weeks. At the MAAC indoor track championships, both teams finished in last place.
The Red Foxes will hope for better performances in the lead-up to the outdoor track and field at Mount St. Mary’s in early May.
Edited by Dan Aulbach
Header photo from Jonathan Kinane