Marist celebrates its eighth straight MAAC championship, longest active streak of any program in the nation. (Photo courtesy of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference)
The queens of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference have reclaimed their throne.
Following a 72-48 demolition of Iona for the program's record-tying ninth MAAC championship and eighth consecutive title, Marist head coach Brian Giorgis seemed somewhat mesmerized by the extension of his team's phenomenal decade-long dominance.
"Never in my wildest dreams did I think this could happen," said Giorgis after cutting down the net for the ninth time in the last ten years, "but these kids believe in themselves, and they don't care what anybody thinks. Our players don't look at each other individually, they look at Marist, and that's what makes us dangerous every year." The Red Foxes' 21st straight win, and 23rd consecutive in the conference tournament, became the latest statement to just how successful Marist women's basketball has become.
"It really starts with the seniors and the people coming back," Giorgis intimated after the game. "They help the new players learn right away what's expected of them. We don't always get the best players in the country, but we do get some of the best people in the country, people who really care about Marist." One of those players is junior guard Casey Dulin, who flirted with a triple-double on her way to a 12-point, 9-assist, 8-rebound outing that earned her a spot on the all-tournament team.
"She means a lot to us," Giorgis said of the Milford, Connecticut product. "She always comes through. She always finds the people on our team nobody else finds."
For the eleventh-year head coach, today's victory not only meant the arrival of the impending NCAA Tournament, but also a return to what he calls the "fun part" of the season after wrapping up an undefeated conference campaign.
"We've just gone through 21 games with a huge target on our back that we're just so used to," said Giorgis. "Now, we're getting to the fun part; like the nonconference season, where we're the underdog, and we don't mind that."
Finally, Marist's latest masterpiece takes on an emotional meaning, as the Red Foxes played with somewhat heavy hearts as longtime athletic trainer and coordinator of sports medicine Glenn Marinelli battles brain cancer. Throughout the season, Marist and the rest of the MAAC has raised money to help his condition as part of the "Friends for Glenn" campaign.
"I think it gives this extra special meaning," Giorgis reflected when asked how much the championship meant with regard to winning it for Marinelli. "Our kids love him, and he's a real pillar of the community." As Marist will now await their NCAA Tournament fate for the ninth time in the last ten years, their leader put the season in perspective.
"It doesn't get more exciting for me as a coach to see that Marist won, that no player carried the team individually, because this team was so unselfish on the floor. They're the nicest group of people you could ever find, and they happen to be great basketball players."
They also happen to be champions.
Postgame Extra: Here are some facts about the Marist title win, courtesy of sports information director Mike Ferraro: