She is the senior who doesn't start, but 6-foot-3 post player Maria Laterza not only was an effective reserve for the Marist women's basketball team but an even better motivator.
After the team's Sunday afternoon practice on the day prior to Monday's championship game against Loyola, and just following the team meal in their hotel's banquet room, Laterza handed each of her teammates a puzzle piece that had the player's name and information on one side and something else on the reverse.
When the puzzle pieces were fitted together, what was on the reverse side came together as the image of a Red Fox with these words superimposed: "One team, one soul, one heart, one goal."
"When she gave us those puzzle pieces and we saw what it said when it was all put together, we all started cheering," said teammate and tournament MVP Erica Allenspach. "And, we're not a cheering type of team. We're usually pretty laid back. But, that meant a lot to us."
As if the Red Foxes needed much more incentive.
They had visions of this from long before the opening tip of the first game of the regular season.
"We called what we wanted to do this season our 'quest,' " said Allsnspach. "We (this year's seniors) wanted to finish 18-0 in regular-season conference play for the second time (the 2007-08 team also recorded that record, and no other MAAC team has ever gone through the regular season without a loss since the league expanded to an 18 game schedule in 1997).
"When we did it when we were freshmen we were all role players," added Allenspach. "I don't know that we were that highly regarded as a recruiting class, so doing it again this year meant a lot to us. We made it our quest. We thought we could do it, but we didn't think we'd win 20 of our 21 conference games (including the three in the post-season tournament) by double figures.
"We knew everyone was chasing us, but we put more pressure on ourselves than anyone. We liked having the bullseye on our back, and we knew that unless we beat ourselves that we weren't going to get beat at all."