ALBANY, N.Y. — The big story on the women’s side is that Marist is the MAAC Tournament Champion for the fifth straight year after defeating Fairfield 66-49 early Sunday afternoon. But before I get into that, it would be unfair not to mention Fairfield’s unbelievable run to the MAAC title game. To win nine games in a row and get itself to the final after all the injuries this season was truly incredible. Winning its third game in three days with a virtually non-existent bench was simply too tall of a task. However, if it weren’t for the overwhelming excellence of the opponent, the Stags may have been able to do it.
The fact that the opponent was top-seeded Marist was no surprise. There hasn’t been a MAAC Tournament final in the last seven years that hasn’t involved the Red Foxes. The most amazing part, though, is of course the consecutive championships. Consider that on the men’s side the most consecutive titles won is three (by LaSalle). It may seem like the Saints have been dominating for a long time, but the Siena men have only won two in a row and are appearing in only their fourth straight final.
In other words, the Marist women’s basketball dynasty is unlike any other in MAAC hoops history. Leading the way is 6′ forward Rachele Fitz. The senior has done nothing but win since arriving on campus. Marist head coach Brian Giorgis said, “If there’s a better player in the history of this league, I’d like to meet her.” Hard to argue with him considering Fitz’s resume which, after this weekend’s wins and awards, includes four MAAC regular season and conference titles, three MAAC Player of the Year awards, and two MAAC Tournament MVPs, to name a few.
She is averaging 18 points and eight rebounds this season. Despite some foul trouble that kept her on the bench for a period in the first half, Fitz still scored 15 in the title game, shooting seven-of-12 from the field. She is modest enough to deflect praise to her teammates and coaching staff, but anyone involved with women’s basketball in the MAAC knows about her great career. A couple of wins in the upcoming NCAA Tournament and even more people in the college basketball community will know too.
Fairfield eliminates the Gaels from one tournament, helps them get into another: Iona may have lost to the Stags on Saturday, but Fairfield’s loss to Marist in the title game guaranteed that the Gaels would receive an invite to the NIT. Per NCAA rules, if the regular season champ also wins the conference tournament, then the second-place team automatically gets an NIT bid. Therefore, Marist’s win clinched a spot for Iona.
Iona head coach Anthony Bozzella, good friends with Giorgis, was appreciative of the Red Foxes accomplishment. Said Giorgis: “I already got a text that said ‘congrats and thanks.'”