Here's another in the series previewing conference teams for this season.
Up now ...
2011-12 RECORD: 17-1 in MAAC play, 26-8 overall. Advanced to second round of the NCAA tournament before losing, 66-63, to St. Bonaventure.
KEY LOSSES: Guard Corielle Yarde (14.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, 4.5 assists per game), forward Brandy Gang (12.6 ppg.).
KEY RETURNEES: 6-2 senior forward Elizabeth Beynnon (8.6 ppg. last season), 6-1 senior forward Kristina Danella (6.5, 3.4), 5-10 junior guard Casey Dulin (9.4, 4.1, 3.3 assists), 5-10 junior guard Leanne Ockenden (8.8, 3.5).
KEY NEWCOMERS: 6-3 sophomore center Tori Jarosz, transfer from Vanderbilt; 6-5 freshman center Delaney Hollenbeck, 6-0 freshman guard Sydney Coffey.
NOTES: Here we go again, more Marist domination of MAAC women's basketball. The Red Foxes have won at least 25 games overall for the past six seasons. They've won outright (eight) or shared (once) the regular-season league title for the past nine years ... But, Marist will have to do it with a little adversity this season. Sophomore post player Tori Jarosz, who had a game-high 14 points in the team's season opener, suffered a broken wrist in that game and will be out until at least mid-February , if not the rest of the season. And, highly regarded 6-5 freshman Delaney Hollenback has some still-to-be-diagnosed leg issues that appear likely to keep her out for an extended period ... it leaves Marist without a legitimate post player, but that was an issue last season, too, and the team was still dominant ... Still, Marist has been outbrebounded by an average of 11.3 per contest, a seeming recipe for disaster. But, somehow, the team rolls on, to a 2-1 start with the loss coming to a very good Hartford squad and one of the victories over Princeton which, at the time, was rated the No. 4 mid-major level program nationally ... Somehow? With defense, the program's trademark for the past decade. In the team's two victories it held both opponents to 45 points and a combined 26.9 percent shooting from the field ... And, Marist isn't entirely devoid of height. Elizabeth Beynnon, who had a solid year last year and has been even better to date this season, is 6-foot 2. Emma O'Connor, previously a reserve, is a 6-footer now in the starting lineup. Kristina Danella, who mostly comes off the bench is 6-1. Freshman Sydney Coffey, who had 13 points vs. Princeton and has a reputation for strong defense, is 6-0. Guards Casey Dulin and Leanne Ockenden are both 5-10 ... Still, there isn't a true post player available without Jarosz and Hollenbeck ... But, Marist head coach Brian Giorgis always recruits so well that the program's depth is more than good enough to survive a couple of injuries. Players out? Just move O'Connor (6.7, 4.0 so far) into the starting lineup and give Coffey more playing time ... For now, Beynnon, O'Connor, Ockenden and Dulin look like the constants in the starting lineup, although Dulin had some back spasms and didn't start against Princeton ... Danella provides offense off the bench, and fifth-year senior point guard Kristine Best, a former starter, and 5-7 guard Natalie Gomez are solid reserves, too. It's just that with the expected depth moving into more significant roles, the usual Marist depth, for now, isn't quite as pronounced.
MARIST STRENGTHS: If anyone thinks, by now, that Giorgis isn't one of the best mid-major level coaches nationally they haven't been paying attention. Heck, Giorgis is one of the best women's coaches at any level ... he preaches defense, and his players by into that system. The offense is a complicated yet instinctive motion attack that is extremely difficult to defend, particularly when it has as many legitimate scoring options as Marist always seems to put on the court ... Dulin is certainly among the league's better point guards, and both Beynnon and Ockenden have developed into status as some of the league's better players ... Coffey looks like she is going to provide help this year and O'Connor, who never started a game in her first two seasons, has stepped up to be a solid contributor.
MARIST'S WEAKNESSES: The big one is the lack of legitimate post play. The 11.3 per-game rebound disadvantage so far has to be cut considerably, or Marist will lose some games it otherwise should win. To date, though, the Red Foxes have been able to overcome giving opponents more possessions with stingy defense. But, being a post-challenged team isn't anything new for Marist and the very strong guess here is that they'll find a way to compensate.
REASONABLE EXPECTATION: If you're a Marist fan, you're certainly spoiled by now. This is the MAAC-version of the New York Yankees ... they expect to win every year. The difference is that baseball's Yankees don't win a championship every year, and Marist does. There is absolutely no reason, for now, to expect Marist to be anything but a first-place team again this season. Still, this team, with Jarosz and Hollenbeck, was built for success beyond the league level. With the promise of height, Marist seemed equipped to do some real damage in national post-season play. Now, though, the expectation of competing against big national-level teams might not be so realistic.