Earlier this week we identified the Top 10 stories of the 2013-14 season for men. Time, now, for the ladies, in reverse order ...
10. GOOD THINGS ON DISPLAY AT MONMOUTH
This story is almost predicated on good things to come for the first-year entrant to the MAAC, but that's a product of what we saw from the Hawks this past season.
Despite just a 6-14 league record, we're picking Monmouth as the surprise team of next season. The team has some of the best young talent we've seen (and we saw every women's team play at least three times), including a pair of 6-foot-4 skilled and talented "bigs" in Christina Mitchell and Sophie Beaudry and point Helena Kurt. All three will be sophomores next season and all three are very talented.
And, there's a strong third 6-4 player on the scene in senior-to-be Sara English. Monmouth's team this season, and next, might be the tallest the MAAC has ever seen. And head coach Jenny Palmateer isn't adverse to using two of her "trees" at the same time. And, it's not that Monmouth didn't show some signs this season. It beat third-place Fairfield during the regular season and finished strong with a regular-season ending demolition of Siena (80-57) and a play-in MAAC Tournament round victory over Niagara (66-62), before a tournament-ending loss to Iona.
9. MASON SHOWS SIGNS OF THINGS TO COME
If Monmouth's play this year was a harbinger of future team success, then the indications of an emerging standout were on display by Rider's Stephanie Mason in the MAAC Tournament.
Mason, a 5-foot-9 freshman guard, was a lightly used reserve (11.5 minute-per-game average) for much of the regular season. And, in the MAAC event's play-in round she played just three minutes, had a turnover, a foul and did not score.
And, then, she didn't play much in the first half of the tournament's quarterfinal-round contest against Fairfield. But, with the Stags holding a 43-34 advantage midway through the second half, Mason became the event's emerging star.
Against a Fairfield zone, she made four consecutive three-pointers, the final one giving her team a 50-46 lead on its way to a 63-56 upset over the tournament's No. 3 seed.
As if to show that wasn't a fluke, she scored a career-high 18 points in 23 minutes of playing time in the semifinal round, a surprisingly close 70-59 loss to Marist.
8. A NEW REGULAR-SEASON CHAMPION
For the first time in 10 years a team other than Marist was the regular-season champion. That was Iona, coached by Billi Godsey.
The Gaels actually tied for the top spot with the Red Foxes, both with 18-2 conference records. But, by virtue of tie-breakers, Iona was the top seed for the MAAC Tournament.
7. IONA'S GODSEY NAMED NATIONAL AWARD WINNER
Godsey was recently named the WBCA Spalding Maggie Dixon Division I Rookie Coach of the Year, with the announcement coming in Nashville, Tenn., the night prior to the NCAA tournament's women's championship game. She becomes the first coach in conference history to claim the honor.
In her first season as a head coach she led Iona to a program record 26 victories and an in-season 18-game winning streak, the longest in school history.
The award is named in honor of the late Maggie Dixon, the former Army head coach, whose inaugural year with that program resulted in a 2006 Patriot League title. Dixon tragically passed away on April 6, 2006, just a few weeks following her team's appearance in the NCAA tournament.
6. ANOTHER STRONG SEASON FOR FAIRFIELD
The Stags played longer into the 2013-14 season than any MAAC women's program, advancing to the semifinal round of the WBI Tournament before losing to Illinois-Chicago.
Fairfield finished with a 22-11 record and, during the regular season, handed Marist one of its two losses.
It was just the continuation of a strong run of success under coach Joe Frager, whose team has participated in national post-season play four times (three WBI events, one WNIT berth) in the past five years.
5. NEAR HISTORIC YEAR BY RIDER'S McKENZIE
While MyNeshia McKenzie, the talented 6-foot-0 senor forward was putting up big numbers all year for Rider, she was also chasing history.
Her 19.5 points and 11.1 rebounds per-game average this past season was the latest run by a player that fell just short of averaging a historic 20/10 for a full season.
No MAAC women's player has ever recorded a 20/10 season average. The closest was former Loyola standout Patty Stoffey, who was five total rebounds short of the achievement in the mid-1990's.
4. HISTORICAL RUNS BY IONA PLAYERS
We're seeing history in the making by two Iona players, junior guard Damika Martinez and sophomore forward Joy Adams.
Martinez, through three seasons, already has 1,866 career points which is 11th all-time on the league's career list. When she scores 10 more points next season she'll move up to eighth. And, before the season is out, she is almost assured of becoming the MAAC's all-time leading scorer. Loyola's Patty Stoffey currently tops the league's career scoring list with 2,467 points.
Martinez had 771 points last season (her 24.9 ppg. average was eighth-best nationally), so a duplication of that would push her to 2.,637.
Adams, in just two seasons, has moved into the No. 31 spot among the league's career rebounders with a total of 794. Her 13.8 rebound-per-game average this past season was third-best nationally.
She needs just 423 more rebounds to become the conference's all-time leader in grabbing missed shots, a mark currently held by former Manhattan standout Rosalee Mason (1,217). Adams had 442 rebounds this past season, and still has two more seasons of eligibility.
Adams is also chasing national historical marks. If she duplicates this past season with her next two years, she'll finish with close to 1,700 career rebounds. That would be enough to lift her into the No. 3 spot of all-time rebounders in NCAA Division I history, behind only Courtney Parks (2,034) of Oklahoma and Wanda Ford (1,887) of Drake.
3. MARIST BEATS RANKED OKLAHOMA
It isn't often that top-25 ranked opponents even take a game against a MAAC team, let alone travel to play on the home court of one of our conference's programs.
But, Oklahoma (ranked 19th nationally at the time of the game), came to the McCann Recreation Center for a December non-league game and Marist showed why ranked teams are loath to come to Poughkeepsie.
The Red Foxes earned a 76-69 victory. Sophomore guard Sydney Coffey poured in a game-high 25 points for the winners.
It was Marist's first-ever home-court victory over a nationally ranked opponent.
2. MARIST'S SERIES WITH IONA
There was a new challenge for the Marist women this year in the form of Iona.
Iona won the first of the two regular-season meetings with the Red Foxes, 73-71, in Poughkeepsie (Jan. 13) on Damika Martinez' dramatic 17-foot shot with three seconds remaining.
The outcome broke a 42-game home winning streak by Marist and a 36-game string of victories over MAAC opponents in games played anywhere.
Marist, though, got revenge in a big way when the two teams met again in the final game of the regular season, on the Gaels' home court.
The Red Foxes came away with a start-to-finish demolition of Iona, winning by a 79-67 score that wasn't anywhere near as close as the final score indicated.
1. MARIST, YET AGAIN, IN CLASSIC VICTORY
Marist entered this season's MAAC tournament with an eight-year run as the event's winner and automatic entrant to the NCAA tournament. Under the superb direction of coach Brian Giorgis, it had been nine NCAA trips in the past 10 seasons.
It looked very much like that string would end as Quinnipiac, which entered the MAAC this season after winning the championship of its former league (the Northeast Conference) the previous season, held a 17-point lead late in the first half if this year's MAAC Tournament championship game.
But, then, Marist started chipping its way back in, getting to within 11 at halftime and kept the pressure on after that.
Sophomore guard Sydney Coffey had 16 of her team-high 23 points in the second half for Marist and gave her team its first second-half lead with a bucket with 5:45 remaining.
Quinnipiac, though, didn't falter, and a basket by its superb post player Brittany McQuain followed by two free throws by guard Jasmine Martin tied the score at 64-64 with 2:18 remaining.
Junior center Tori Jarosz, though, followed with a layup and a free thow to give Marist a 67-64 lead with 1:43 remaining. McQuain than made another inside shot to pull the Bobcats to within one with a minute left.
Coffee then made two free throws with 14 seconds remaining to give the Red Foxes a 69-66 lead, and a subsequent three-point attempt to tie the game for Quinnipiac bounced off the rim.
Marist secured another MAAC championship game victory and its ninth straight trip to the NCAA tournament.
Although it lost, 87-65, in a first-round NCAA game against Iowa (on Iowa's home court), the MAAC tournament victory proved once again that the only certainties seem to be death, taxes and conference domination by the Marist women's basketball team.