Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Marist Women's Run Ends in 1st Round

Time to catch up on how other MAAC teams did in post-season play, with the qualifier that your blogger saw none of the action.

I was looking forward to watching the Marist women's NCAA game on ESPN2 but, unfortunately, that coverage did not extend to the Capital Region and I only saw a few cut-ins.

Still, some observations ...

The Marist women did indeed appear a little more vulnerable than usual during the conference's regular-season play, losing games at Niagara, at Fairfield and at Manhattan. There was also a late-season overtime victory at Iona.

At season's end, when talking about Marist's slight "slip" this year, Fairfield coach Joe Frager was accurate in his perception that the other nine MAAC coaches would give anything to have finished 15-3 in league play this season.

Still, it was Marist's first three-loss season in conference play since the 2004-05 season.

All of which probably didn't make the Red Foxes' first-round 62-42 NCAA tournament loss to a very strong Georgetown squad in a game played at the Haas Pavilion on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley this past Saturday too much of a surprise.

The game wasn't that different than what the Siena men went through in its first round NCAA tournament contest (a loss to Purdue). Like the Siena men, the Marist women were in the game at halftime (trailing, 25-23) and, then, had no second-half answers.

The similarity to the Siena men goes beyond that. The two programs have been dominant in the conference in recent years (the Siena men for the past three seasons, the Marist women for the past seven), but both are likely to come back to the proverbial pack next season.

Marist loses its all-time standout Rachele Fitz, a 6-foot-0 forward, who coach Brian Giorgis recently pronounced as the all-time best player ever in the Marist women's program. Fitz's play transcends that, though. She is most certainly in the conversation about the top female player to ever appear in the MAAC.

Marist does return a pair of standout perimeter players in 5-8 senior-to-be Erica Allenspach (11 points, 7 rebounds in the NCAA game) and 5-8 junior-to-be Corielle Yard (15 and 8). The team also will have a developing 6-4 sophomore-to-be center Kate Oliver returning.

But, only Fitz, Allenspach, Yard and Oliver scored against Georgetown, underlying Marist's lack of quality depth compared to past seasons, a situation that will be further emphasized without Fitz next season.

Until then, though, there is much positive to reflect upon for the Marist women's program. The 2007-08 team finished with an 18-0 record, the only team to go through league play with 18 victories.

Over the past six seasons the team has been 97-12 (a winning percentage of 89.0), and has been 110-17 (.866 winning percentage) over the past seven years.

No program, either men's or women's, comes close to that type of extended success.

Safe to say that the Marist women's program of the past seven years epitomizes the term "dynasty" in this conference's history.

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