Despite outshooting their opponent and controlling possession for the majority of the game, Marist women’s soccer was undone by a fifth minute counter-attack Saturday night.
The Red Foxes’ offensive woes continued to haunt them as they lost 1-0 to Saint Peter’s and their lone goal scorer, sophomore forward Gianna Grassifulli. Grassifulli as well as missed shots from Marist proved to be the difference Saturday night at Tenney Stadium on the way to a gritty three points for the Peacocks.
“It took a little punch out of us,” said Marist head coach Nicole Pacapelli. “We talk about not giving up goals in the first five minutes. I think it kind of shocked the group.”
Despite an important victory over Rider to open MAAC play in the previous game, Marist’s offensive struggles remained. Through six games, the Red Foxes have only scored two goals in, and going up against a Saint Peter’s team that had allowed 20 goals in their opening six matches, a breakthrough looked to be possible. However, once the Peacocks grabbed the early lead, they strictly kept numbers behind the ball to rattle Marist’s offense.
“I think they did whatever they could to disrupt our rhythm, disrupt our play in any way, shape or form, and we really couldn’t shake that,” said Pacapelli.
Sophomore goalkeeper Maddy Catalanotti got her second straight start for Marist after earning her first collegiate win and shut out last weekend. Pacapelli lined her team up in their now customary 4-2-3-1 formation.
The Red Foxes started the game with a burst of energy, pushing the Peacocks onto their heels. But, during their first time holding the ball in the offensive half, Saint Peter’s capitalized. Sophomore midfielder Stella Accettola dinked the ball over Marist’s backline to find Grassifulli who beat Catalanotti to the ball and stuck it in the back of the net.
“It was pretty clear that goal rattled everyone,” said graduate student defender Samantha Sturno. “That was the turning point of the game, and we couldn’t figure it out from there.”
After conceding the first goal, Marist’s attack deflated and lost the intensity they started with. The Red Foxes continued to control possession but were disconnected in their passing and easily lost the ball. Both teams became frustrated by their lack of consistency on the ball, and the game got chippy. The referee kept his whistle close, calling 11 fouls in the first half and dishing out three yellow cards.
Sturno kept Marist’s attack pushing by running the ball up the right side, finding a teammate near her, or sending in a cross. Yet, as it has been for most of the season, the Red Foxes struggled to connect in the final third. To counter the offensive push from Marist, the Peacocks became content with keeping numbers behind the ball and not letting Marist in close.
Marist nearly had an early candidate for goal of the year in the 37th minute when Sturno whipped a cross to the top of the box for graduate student midfielder Grace Hotaling to volley on goal. Junior goalkeeper Annabelle Adams leaped to make the save and protect the Peacock’s lead. Marist kept pressing for the equalizer but could not find it in the opening 45.
In those first 45 minutes, Marist outshot Saint Peter’s 9-2 and 5-1 for shots on target.
Senior midfielder Amanda Caldarelli came out of the break looking to be the spark for the Red Foxes making multiple runs with the ball through the middle. But, as has been the story for Marist, they couldn’t find each other for the final ball and lost the scoring opportunity.
As the second half progressed, Saint Peter’s became more comfortable possessing the ball and held the most offensive possession they had seen all game. In the 59th minute, after Marist cleared a blocked shot, the Peacocks recycled the ball into the box, where sophomore forward Taylor Moyer headed it down looking for Grassifulli, but it rolled out for a goal kick.
The game maintained its chippy nature throughout the second frame; three more yellow cards were earned, including one to Saint Peter’s assistant coach Elliot McPhelim for kicking the ball away from a Marist throw-in.
Sturno, Marist’s lone All-MAAC Preseason team member, kept making dangerous runs up the right wing and putting crosses into the Peacock’s box, but the Red Foxes couldn’t get on the end of them. Much of Marist’s offensive struggles can be attributed to freshman defender Allyssia Merisier, who made a successful tackle virtually every time an opponent tried to get past her.
“I think we got a little panicky,” said Sturno, “we were trying to kick it through people instead of around.”
Saint Peter’s nearly put the icing on their victory when Moyer surprised Catalanotti, firing on up and ringing the crossbar in the 77th minute.
Marist’s best opportunity to tie the game came in the 81st minute. Hotaling turned her defender inside and out from the top of the box, finding rare time and space in front of the goal; she fired but missed wide. The Red Foxes kept trying but sent three shots off-target in the final five minutes.
Marist squandered an opportunity to win back-to-back games for the first time since Sept. 2021 against a team that has struggled defensively this season. Heading into their final non-conference game this Wednesday away to Bryant, Pacapelli says she hopes to rotate in more of her personnel before returning to MAAC play next weekend.
The Red Foxes season continues to be defined by their inability to find the back of the net.
Edited by: Aidan Lavin
Photo Credit: Kira Crutcher