The 2023 Marist women’s soccer season came to a close in a 2-0 loss against Canisius on Saturday in Poughkeepsie.
The final and most crucial game of the Marist women’s soccer season (2-9-5, 2-5-3 MAAC) was preceded by their eleven players being honored for Senior Day. Friends and family of the honorees presented each player with flowers prevailing over the gloomy weather with plenty of smiles and warm embraces.
Marist has the most seniors on any MAAC roster, and the experienced bunch were all in the starting eleven hoping to compete for playoff soccer during their final season.
“I think they’ve done a very good job of setting those building blocks and really building tradition here and starting us off the way I want us to get started,” head coach Nicole Pacapelli said of her seniors.
After the loss against conference-leading Quinnipiac, Pacapelli challenged her team to compete.
“They needed a little bit of a gut check,” said Pacapelli. “We responded well in regards to getting some better results in the latter half of the season competing with some of the better teams of the conference.”
Since then, Marist played some of their most competitive soccer. Most recently, the Red Foxes fired off a season-high 18 shots against Iona and scored their fifth goal of the season.
Despite increased offense, Marist shot themselves in the foot, as today’s match ended in a 1-1 draw against a team that has lost thirteen times this season.
A three-point victory would have given Marist a tie-break advantage over Manhattan and a leg up on Mount St. Mary’s for the final playoff spot coming into today’s match. They also would have been far less reliant on results from other games while seeking a playoff berth for the ninth consecutive season.
Instead, they trailed the final playoff spot by two points and the task became more difficult, as the Red Foxes needed a win just to maintain an outside chance.
Facing a Canisius (8-3-5, 5-2-2 MAAC) squad headlined by a stingy defense allowing the fewest goals per game in the MAAC, the season-long scoring woes of Marist (which ranked) last in the MAAC for total goals scored) figured to have the makings of a frustrating day for the Red Foxes. Perhaps giving them a chance was the absence of Canisius junior goalkeeper Jordan Spencer, who is the MAAC leader in goals allowed, average goals allowed and save percentage.
Despite Spencer’s absence, the potential frustration proved to be true as the Red Foxes were blanked in a 2-0 loss.
“We knew we had to win the game if we wanted to have our season continued. We said it all week, it was a must-win,” said Pacapelli.
Marist showed their awareness of the implications and did everything in the first half to show the statistics going against Pacapelli’s group did not matter.
The Red Foxes were tested early by Canisius junior midfielder Emma Oliphant, but sophomore goalkeeper Maddy Catalanotti made a beautiful diving save in the 15th minute, denying Oliphant her fourth goal of the season.
Marist kept pace with the third-place Canisius and created a scoring opportunity of their own, hitting the crossbar in the 24th minute off a shot from senior forward Amanda Calderelli. Through the first 45 minutes, Catalanotti produced three saves including a few punch-outs, promising counterattacks were produced and the shot totals were only separated by one with Canisius at five and Marist at four.
Four minutes into the second half, sophomore Canisius forward Skylar Cornell buried her fourth goal of the season into the top left corner to give Canisius a 1-0 lead.
Graduate student defender Samantha Sturno was moved up to forward by Pacapelli, realizing her team urgently needed a ball in the back of the net. The captain immediately began applying offensive pressure.
“We talked about at halftime, just risk versus reward. Throwing numbers forward and doing whatever we can… we had nothing to lose,” said Pacapelli.
Sturno took a deep shot that missed high and minutes later, sifted through the defense to create an opportunity for senior forward Bridget Dudziec; senior Canisius goalkeeper Jessica Jones denied the chance.
The Red Foxes struggled to get past the Golden Griffin’s stellar back line and Jones remained rather idle until there were ten minutes remaining in the game.
Graduate student forward Brooke Cergol had a centered try. but missed wide right; the Canisius dagger came shortly after.
In the 85th minute, Cornell received the ball from Oliphant and wound up all alone in the middle of the box. She easily scored her second goal of the game to make it 2-0 in favor of Canisius; Oliphant received credit for the assist.
The match ended with tears for the Red Foxes. A lengthy full-team embrace ensued after the final whistle in the final Marist game of the 2023 season.
Despite the loss, the team finished the season as a unified front. Pacapelli’s tenure began with a team that, thanks in part to her graduating class, now has something to build off of for the future of Marist women’s soccer.
Edited by Luke Sassa
Graphic by Kara Mitch; Photo via Jaylen Rizzo