With the women’s college basketball season officially coming to an end with LSU’s win over Iowa in the championship game on Sunday, we reconvened our roundtable crew to break down the past season, present situation, and future of Marist women’s basketball.
As newly-minted head coach Erin Doughty begins her attempt to restore the Red Foxes back to their place at the top of the MAAC, let’s hear what our writers have to say about the state of the program.
What do you make of the 2022-23 season?
Jonathan Kinane, Editor-in-Chief: Technically speaking, this year was an improvement over 2021-22. The Red Foxes had their moments in Brian Giorgis’ farewell season but faded away in the second half of the conference schedule as the team dealt with some injuries, dropping eight of their final 10 games.
The phrase that best describes things is “one step forward, two steps back.”
The team was too dependent on Zaria Shazer and Kiara Fisher on offense. The lack of balance showed up against the teams in the top half of the MAAC standings. The duo, along with Kendall Krick (who was not 100 percent healthy down the stretch), were the only players to average double-digit points per game with a steep drop-off after that.
It was a shame the team couldn’t notch a few more wins and make a MAAC Tournament run for Giorgis, but Erin Doughty has the tools to engineer a turnaround in her first season at the helm.
Issy Cicinelli, Assistant Editor: I wouldn’t call the season a complete failure, as there were times when the Red Foxes showed signs of some real improvement. The double-digit wins in Dublin and against American University are the ones that stick out in my head.
However, there were plenty of times when the team looked like they were taking a step back in the opposite direction. Their staggering 49-point loss against Columbia was the first sign of caution, followed by their first loss to MAAC champions Iona in a tough string of conference games. The offense lacked efficiency and the team lacked a sense of direction.
In Brian Giorgis’last season, the storybook ending of making a run at a MAAC championship quickly became a fantasy. After all the Giorgis festivities, the season is yet another building block to the legacy up-and-coming head coach Erin Doughy will have to work with.
Kira Crutcher, Contributor: Inconsistency is definitely the first word that comes into my head. The best representation–which Jon noted– was when Marist beat top-seeded Iona, and then lost just days later to Rider.
That being said, it was not a bad season all in all. It featured some quality performances, such as the 44-point game by Kiara Fisher against Mount St. Mary’s and sparks of potential from the younger players like Cunningham, Piddock, and Tompkins.
Danny Destler, Contributor: The team had a lot of ups and downs this year. The team showed flashes during Giorgis’s last season, but they did not play to their potential during the latter part of the season, winning a mere two games out of their last ten games. This team was better than what they put out on the court most nights. The lack of consistency was evident down the stretch of games. We just hoped that the team could make this Cinderella run in the tournament for their coach, but they fell short.
What held the team back from making bigger strides this season?
Jonathan: The lack of balance. Other teams only had to focus on two or three players and could sit back and dare Marist’s role players to beat them. Usually, that didn’t happen, and the Red Foxes needed strong performances from the Shazer-Fisher duo if they wanted to win.
We saw flashes from the likes of Morgan Tompkins, Catie Cunningham, and Jackie Piddock; but the problem was that Marist did not get consistent offensive production from experienced players like Julianna Bonilla, Sam Bailey, and Maeve Donnelly.
This top heaviness was the reason why the Red Foxes couldn’t string much momentum together in the MAAC. The late-season win at Iona followed by back-to-back losses to Rider was Marist’s season in a nutshell.
Issy: Echoing what my fellow writers have said, the biggest problem was lack of depth. There was too much dependence on Zaria Shazer and Kiara Fisher, especially at the start of the season. While these girls both put together strong seasons, teams start to pick up on these types of players and eventually find ways to lock them down.
The lack of consistency and depth from the bench held them back from making a lengthier run down the stretch, especially in MAAC play.
Injuries also did not help. Six-foot-five center Maeve Donnelly getting hurt near the end of the season severely hurt the Red Foxes who needed her defense for a playoff run. The bench was quiet and a no-show in moments when the starters needed relief.
Kira: A lot of the same issues from last season: a lack of consistency and depth and some injury issues. While Shazer, Fisher, and Krick averaged points in the double digits, they needed more support offensively. As Jon and Issy said, many teams started to build their defense around guarding these players, which made it more difficult for Marist to win. It seemed that every time Marist found its mojo and best playing style, the opposition quickly adapted to shut it down.
Losing Donnelly towards the end of the season killed the Foxes defensively and in rebounds in general.
Danny: Let me put it this way. The team could shoot the lights out against a great team as they did against Iona in the regular season finale, or they could lose to two bottom teams, like Canisius and Rider (all three times). You could see the team who beat number one ranked Iona or the team who lost to Rider twice. That, in my opinion, was the main issue that held this team back from making strides. It was the lack of consistency holding this team back.
What legacy does outgoing head coach Brian Giorgis leave behind? How will Erin Doughty handle her new role as head coach?
Jonathan: He leaves as the greatest coach in Marist history without a shadow of a doubt. He engineered a dynasty in the Mid-Hudson Valley, taking the program to nine straight NCAA Tournaments from 2006-2014 and winning five games in the Big Dance during that time.
He turned an anonymous, small northeastern school into a gold standard for mid-major schools. Sure, the last two seasons haven’t been what anyone wanted, but that shouldn’t diminish anything he’s done. I expect the Marist basketball teams will play on Brian Giorgis court at the McCann Center one day.
That said, Doughty was the clear successor and the program handled things the right way by having a fortified plan in place. She’ll have the full support of the players, administrators, and fans as she attempts to put her own stamp on Marist women’s basketball, being the team’s sixth head coach in Division I history. I’m not sure what we’ll see in her first season, but I expect Doughty to get things turned around before too long.
Issy: Giorgis’s legacy is truly unmatched. If you attended or saw clips from the retirement ceremony and his last game at the McCann Center, his impact and legacy were evident. Not only did he have an impact on his players, but also on the coaching staff, the Marist community, and the greater Poughkeepsie area. He brought a winning culture to a small Division I school where winning sports cultures frankly do not come around often.
With a record of 443-164, he led the Red Foxes to 11 NCAA Tournament appearances and five wins. The Sweet Sixteen appearance in 2007 is a memory that will live on forever and cemented his powerful legacy at Marist.
Doughty, who has served as Associate Head Coach for three seasons, wrapped up her 16th season working with the Red Foxes. Having played and worked for Giorgis, there is no doubt that she knows what it takes to coach in the Marist environment. She has big shoes to fill, but with her close relationship with Giorgis and the women on the team themselves, it seems as though she has all the tools needed to make her own legacy at Marist and get the Red Foxes back to the NCAA tournament.
Kira: Believed to be the first coach to have over 450 wins at the collegiate and high school levels, Giorgis is a Marist and Poughkeepsie legend. He has not only achieved unprecedented statistics, his real legacy is the impact he has had on his former players, shown in support for their mentor at his retirement ceremony.
Giorgis put Marist women’s basketball on the map, and hopefully Doughty can continue the gold standard set by her mentor.
Danny: I agree with Jon. Giorgis is the greatest Marist coach in history, as well as one of the greatest coaches in the Hudson Valley because of his time at Our Lady of Lourdes. His legacy is shown in the gratitude from his former players. Countless former players thanked Giorgis in a video at his retirement ceremony, with many of those players now coaching at Power Five schools.
New head coach Erin Doughty will fill her role perfectly next season for seasons to come because of the prior experience she has had with this team. She is already recruiting and making efforts to lead this team in the right direction which is a great start. She will lead her team next year with the experiences she has learned from Giorgis in the past.
What does the program need to do to improve in the offseason?
Jonathan: I think it’s pretty simple: they have to hit the portal. Hard. While it’s certainly possible that one of this season’s role players takes a big step forward, Doughty needs to find a second or third scoring option that can supplement the production you know you’re going to get from Shazer and Fisher.
It was another lackluster outside shooting season (only 28 percent), and with one of the team’s best shooters in Kendall Krick out of eligibility, it would make plenty of sense to bring in a wing that can shoot a 3-pointer effectively.
In this age of the transfer portal, you can’t burn bridges with former recruits. If any familiar names are looking for a change of scenery, Marist should jump at the chance to try and spruce up the roster.
Issy: In addition to adding some more depth players through the portal like Jonathan and Danny discussed, I think another thing the Red Foxes need to improve on in the offseason in terms of skills is their shooting percentage and their rebounding.
When looking at the total statistics from the season, the Red Foxes shot 36.1% from the field and had a scoring margin of -4.5, with their average points per game at 57.6 and their opponents scoring 62.1.
In terms of rebounding, second-chance opportunities for opponents were a major problem for the Red Foxes in the paint. Adding some height in the paint should be a place Doughty looks to add in the portal or elsewhere.
The Red Foxes had a -5.0 rebounding margin, relying too much on Maeve Donnelly in the paint and Shazer and Fisher for the bulk of their points. Marist will need to share the wealth in these crucial areas of play and should look to work on that in the offseason.
Kira: As all my fellow writers mentioned, they definitely need to acquire at least one player that can consistently produce offensively and is a solid rebounder. This will help the team find balance and be more difficult to defend against.
To finish higher in the MAAC, the Red Foxes need to have a higher field goal percentage, find more looks, and get more offensive and defensive rebounds.
Danny: I have to agree with Jon on this one; the Red Foxes need to find another scorer or three-point threat. Marist needs to find a scorer just like Krick in my opinion; she was a pure shooter and the rock that Fischer and Shazer leaned on. Whether they find that in the portal or within the team already, I think that is a must. Another scorer would help take the pressure off Fisher and Shazer as well.
What’s the early outlook for next season?
Jonathan: Barring any surprise transfer portal moves, I think the Red Foxes are in a decent position to finish in the upper portion of the MAAC next season. While Krick and Bonilla are moving on, Shazer and Fisher are a good core to build around. Throw in Donnelly–who was very solid on defense– and some good young talent like Cunningham, Tompkins, and Piddock, and I think the pieces are there for a winning team.
As I mentioned above, the coaching staff needs to go out and actively seek an impact transfer or two to add depth to the roster. Marist’s lack of balance was its glaring weak spot this season, and to find future success, the Red Foxes need to become a more consistent team from top to bottom in 2023-24.
Issy: Looking a little in the future to what the Red Foxes will look like next season with Donnelly, Shazer, and Fisher (fingers crossed) sticking around, I do believe there will be an improvement for the team as a whole. There was strong production from the freshman class in many games, especially towards the end of the season, and with more time and development in the Marist scheme, I think the future is bright for the Red Foxes.
Expect freshmen Jackie Piddock and Morgan Tompkins to have a bigger role next season, as well as sophomore Catie Cunningham. With another year of college ball under their belt, these girls will definitely start to feel more comfortable and confident in themselves and could be added bright spots to this Marist team.
Only time will tell how this team will look in about a year’s time, but I remain optimistic. I will be rooting for them as I depart campus and hopefully will see them make a run in the NCAA tournament.
Kira: As Jon said, I think the team is in a good spot for next season, especially if they can pick up one or two transfers that can support Shazer and Fisher on offense which adds more scoring depth to the team.
The younger players on the team now have more collegiate experience under their belt and familiarity with playing alongside one another. This, with some new additions, will leave them in a good place to finish in the top half of the MAAC next season, and hopefully, make a run in Atlantic City.
Danny: As long as the team doesn’t have any transfers, I think the team will finish in the top half of the MAAC next year. Experience is what a team needs to thrive, and this team will be a year older and wiser next season.
Shazer and Fisher will be seasoned veterans for this team and the young players like Cunningham, Tompkins, and Piddock will have a year under their belts, which means they can hopefully only get better from here. Donnelly was a force to be reckoned with down low on defense. As long as they can stay consistent, I expect big things from this team next year.
Edited by Dan Aulbach and Jonathan Kinane
Photo from Marist Athletics