One of the most-attractive women's match-ups of the season takes place tonight at 7:30 p.m. when Fairfield travels to Poughkeepsie, N.Y., to meet Marist at the Red Foxes' on-campus McCann Recreation Center.
It's a battle of two of the three remaining unbeaten teams in conference play (both teams are 2-0, as is Siena which also plays tonight at Saint Peter's). A good-sized crowd is expected. Marist is averaging 1,944 per home game this season, an attendance turnout that dwarfs the rest of the women's programs in the league and would be a nice turnout for the majority of men's teams, as well.
Fairfield doesn't appear to have skipped a beat from a year ago when it finished third in conference play over the regular season, yet lost four key players from that team.
The Stags have gotten a major boost from 6-2 forward Stephanie Geehan (see a blog item on her below), and has gotten strong play from 5-6 sophomore guard Desiree Pena (11.8 points, 2.6 assists per game) and 5-8 freshman guard Katelyn Linney (10.4 ppg.). Linney has already been the conference's Rookie of the Week four times this season.
Marist features its traditional powerhouse lineup led by two-time defending Player of the Year award winner 6-1 forward Rachele Fitz (18.6 points, 7.6 rebounds) and 5-8 guards junior Erica Allenspach (14.2, 5.0 and 4.2 assists) and sophomore Corielle Yarde (13.8, 6.2).
The contest features arguably the league's top two front-court players in Fitz and Geehan.
But, there's probably a little more at stake tonight for the hosts than just maintaining the type conference superiority that has resulted in six consecutive regular-season championships. Fairfield won last year's meeting in Poughkeepsie with a 73-65 overtime decision.
That outcome was not only one of just two Marist losses in conference play all season, but ended a 14-game overall winning streak by the Red Foxes, a streak of 35 straight home victories and a 37-game winning streak against conference teams.
It was also just one of five losses in an active 80-5 record against MAAC opponents since the start of the 2004-05 seasons.
So, the very strong guess here is that Marist coach Brian Giorgis' motivational pre-game talk to his team will include some mention of Fairfield's victory in last season's meeting in Poughkeepsie.