Marist women’s soccer can be grateful their tough non-conference schedule is over. Designed to test them, the Red Foxes (1-5-2, 1-1-0 MAAC) went winless in their six-game preseason slate after losing 2-0 to Bryant Wednesday night.
Offensive struggles continue to headline Marist’s season, getting shut out for the sixth time and being outshot 18-10 (8-3 shots on goal) in Rhode Island.
Taking advantage of their final non-conference game, Marist head coach Nicole Pacapelli rotated six players into the starting lineup, including senior goalkeeper Kelly Lambertson, who was on the bench for the first two MAAC games.
After a shaky start to the season where the Red Foxes had only scored two goals in seven games, the matchup against the Bulldogs provided one last opportunity for Marist to work out their offensive kinks before heading into the gauntlet of conference play.
The match started with a leisurely pace as both teams tried to find their legs and gaps in the opponent’s defense. Senior forward Sofia Cassano–who transferred to Marist this year after three years at Bryant–slipped behind the Bryant back line twice in the early going, but a mistimed pass and blocked shot stopped her from scoring.
Cassano put the game’s first shot on net in the ninth minute after a takeaway and through ball from junior forward Christina Layden. However, Bryant senior goalkeeper Kathryn McNeil was able to stop it with ease.
It took until the 15-minute mark for Bryant’s offense to become active. Junior forward Catherine Bean walked into the middle of the field and struck the ball with her right foot off the crossbar and out.
In the 21st minute, Bryant junior forward Carly Warn sent what appeared at first to be a cross off the crossbar. The rebound was put right back on net by sophomore forward Madison Luke, but Lamberston pushed the ball out for a corner.
As the half progressed, the two teams took turns possessing the ball and generating chances. Several unforced turnovers by both teams created a recurring back-and-forth dynamic.
As halftime neared, it looked like the whistle would blow without a goal having been scored until the 42nd minute. A Bryant corner was headed out of the box and collected by freshman Ashley Cunningham, who took one touch and slotted the ball past Lambertson and into the net. The defender’s first collegiate goal gave the Bulldogs the lead going into the break.
Through 45 minutes, Bryant outshot Marist 8-5, 3-1 with shots on goal and led 4-2 on corner kicks.
Bryant wasted no time coming out of halftime to extend their lead. Luke was ushered into the right side of the box by a through ball and fired on goal. Lambertson made the save, but junior forward Jordan Collins was right there to tap in the rebound one minute into the second half for her second goal in consecutive games.
With a two-goal lead, Bryant took control of the game and the ball. Lambertson fought to keep Marist in it, making four saves after giving up the second goal.
Looking for an offensive spark, Pacapelli moved standout graduate student defender Samantha Sturno up to the midfield. Sturno’s presence higher up on the pitch added some energy to Marist’s game, but as has been consistent throughout the season, the Red Foxes weren’t able to sustain offensive pressure. Bryant sophomore goalkeeper Selena Negron subbed in for the second half and only had to make two saves.
The closest Marist came to getting on the scoresheet in the second half came with seven minutes left. Sturno hunted a rolling ball down the right flank all the way to the goal line, kept it in and crossed it. The ball found senior midfielder Chance Hendricks at the top of the box, who got off a powerless shot that was stopped by Negron.
When the final whistle blew, Marist finished their non-conference schedule without a win. Even more concerning, they have scored twice through their first eight contests.
The Red Foxes will return to MAAC play this Saturday, looking for revenge against Niagara University, who knocked them out of the playoffs last season.
Now halfway through the 2023 season, Marist needs to start generating some offense to be a meaningful participant in this year’s MAAC.
Edited by: Aidan Lavin
Photo Credit: Jaylen Rizzo