Sunday, March 9, 2014

Women's Title Game A Match of NCAA Tourney Teams

Never in the MAAC's previous 32 years of existence have two women's teams that played in the previous year's NCAA tournament met for the following season's opportunity to go there again.

But, that's the situation for Monday's 2 p.m. championship game of this season's MAAC women's tournament when Quinnipiac takes on eight-time defending conference tournament winner Marist.

Of course there's a bit of an unusual circumstance for the unique occurrence. Quinnipiac was a member of the Northeast Conference a year ago and went to the national-championship event as a representative of that league.

There's also another unique aspect to the title-game meeting. It's the first-ever match of teams that had perfect league records the previous year.

Marist was 18-0 in MAAC play in the 2012-13 season, while the Bobcats were 16-0 in the Northeast Conference.

Neither team got through unblemished this season, although Marist did claim a share of the MAAC's regular-season championship, its 11th straight outright or shared title, with an 18-2 mark. Quinnipiac finished 14-6 in MAAC play to finish fourth in the 11-team league.

But, Quinnipiac's six losses all came against the MAAC's top three finishers, an 0-6 record agaisnt teams that finished ahead of the Bobcats.

That all changed in Sunday's semifinal-round contest when Quinnipiac upset regular-season co-champion Iona, 79-68.

Marist advanced with a 70-59 victory over Rider on Sunday.

"I really did not care who we'd play (in the championship game)," said  Rider coach Tricia Fabri. "It does not matter to us. We are just thrilled to be staying here and playing tomorrow (Monday)."

Marist won both regular-season meetings, a 69-63 decision at Quinnipiac and a 100-81 victory on its home court.

"They are an excellent team, a veteran team," said Marist coach Brian Giorgis, about Quinnipiac. "They went to the NCAA tournament last year and they have four of that team's five starters back, as well as a few others who were there last year, too. They present a lot of challenges for us.

"I saw them today (prior to Marist's semifinal-round victory) ... they're deep, they're big, they're physical and they did a great job in their victory over Iona.

"This is what you want to do ... you wnat to go through the best challenges, and they're going to be a challenge for us."

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