Marist water polo hosted the MAAC championships in a raucous McCann Natatorium as the second overall seed. The Red Foxes faced Long Island University in a semi-final rematch from a year ago, when Marist fell 13-7. This season, they suffered the same result, losing 13-10 to end their season.
“I think our biggest thing was just being so tight. Usually, we walk into every game this year super loose, relaxed. The pressure of this game really got to us today,” Head coach Chris Vidale said.
LIU scored on the first possession of the game by way of junior center Diba Peiravani. Paola Dominguez scored in transition to put the Sharks ahead 2-0 two minutes into the game.
Marist responded with Orlova getting on the board. Peiravani netted a second off a Marist exclusion with 3:48 left in the first quarter. Sophomore Rachel Dean finished a power play shot to pull Marist back with 1:19 left. Utility Rachel Loomis scored on the breakaway with 30 seconds left for LIU.
Carrington scored just 10 seconds later. The Sharks ended a frantic first quarter with a buzzer-beater goal from sophomore utility Emma Sardo. LIU led 5-3 after the first period.
Marist tightened up its defense in the second quarter, with Sanchez making several saves.
“Inés has been awesome all year. In this game, she saved us from time to time. But she can only do so much. Your goalie can only make so many saves. Our defense needed to step up a little bit more.”
Despite the defense playing better, the offense struggled to finish opportunities. After another Sanchez save, Vidale used a timeout with just under two minutes left.
“Once it was 5-2, 5-3, you can just feel how wound up we were,” Vidale said.
LIU scored the first goal of the second quarter with a minute remaining from senior utility Kate Hinrichs following a Marist turnover. The Red Foxes responded with a much-needed goal by freshman Paige Naegle.
LIU’s Elena Camarena sniped a long shot with 30 seconds left. The half ended with Marist down 7-4.
Marist senior Fallon Burnworth netted a power play goal in the first minute to begin the second half.
Trailing 9-6 toward the end of the third, the Red Foxes began to press the issue and forced tougher shots on offense, and were more aggressive on defense. However, this made them more vulnerable by chasing the game.
Dominguez scored again off a Marist turnover with 2:18 remaining. Orlova scored her second with 1:30 left to close the gap to three.
After an exclusion was called on Carrington, LIU used a timeout to go over their powerplay, which was 0-for-7 in the game so far.
Hinrichs got the Sharks their first powerplay goal with 1 minute left in the third. The third period ended with LIU in front 11-7.
Carrington scored on the inside in the opening minute of the final quarter. Senior attacker Katie Gill finished a long-range shot to close the deficit to two with 6:36 left. Camarena launched a shot off the post and in to push LIU’s lead to three.
Sophomore Rachel Dean netted a chip over Shark goalie Julia Zebak with five minutes on the timer. Jayda Meyers scored a powerplay goal for LIU one minute later.
Marist called a timeout with 3:10 left down 13-10 as the season hung in the balance.
Zebak produced a huge save off a Burnworth breakaway with 90 seconds left to maintain the Sharks’ three-goal lead.
Marist came up empty in the final five minutes, and LIU advanced to the MAAC final with a 13-10 victory.
Despite ending their season in the same place, Vidale felt this year was different, “The seniors this year formed a proper culture. Last year we had a lot of talent, but the talent did not want to work together.”
Sanchez finished with 7 saves for the Red Foxes, and Carrington, Orlova, and Dean registered two points each. Camarena led LIU with three points, with Dominguez, Peiravani, and Hinrichs scoring two goals each.
Marist finished the season with a 23-10 record overall and 12-2 in MAAC play. The team racked up several season awards, including Head Coach Chris Vidale being named MAAC Coach of the Year and freshman goalie Inés Sanchez being named MAAC co-Rookie of the Year.
In addition, utility Viktoria Orlova was a unanimous All-MAAC first-team selection. Sophomore center Ella Baumgarten, senior utility Shinae Carrington, and Sanchez were named to the All-MAAC second team.
“Those seniors showed up every day, focused on positivity. Team first and them second. They are leaving us in a better place, and I can’t thank them enough for that,” Vidale said.
Edited by Jonathan Kinane
Photo from Marist Athletics via Stockton Photo