MAAC Women’s Water Polo Round-Up: Wagner Win Streak Ends Not with a Bang but a Whimper

When it comes to stopping Erika Hardy (#7) and Wagner in conference play, MAAC administrators have been the most effective. Photo Courtesy: Wagner Athletics

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) women’s water polo regular season play concluded more than a week ago, and—as they have the previous four years—Wagner finished on top of the conference standings. But, for the first time in a span of 57 conference matches, the Seahawks sustained a loss in MAAC play. It was not, however, a defeat in the pool; the only blemish to their MAAC record since 2015 came from a stroke of the conference’s pen—an ignominious way to end an epic stretch.

maac-logo-apr-17As Phil Paquette, MAAC Director of New Media/Communications, explained, on March 10 at Virginia Military Institute’s Clark King Pool, Wagner and Marist—who have finished first and second in conference play since 2016—were scheduled to play. Prior to this date, the respective Seahawk and Red Foxes’ staffs had arranged a meeting at the LMU Invitational on March 15. The teams skipped the match at VMI but did play in LA, an 11-10 win by the Seahawks. However, when the MAAC was notified of this change, they disagreed; the meeting at LMU did not conform to conference scheduling rules.

This disagreement was not revealed until after MAAC play concluded on April 14th in Philadelphia, with Wagner taking its final two regular season matches by a combined score of 39-9. The surprising circumstance of an “L” in MAAC play on the Wagner website appeared, with an April 15 date with Marist is listed as a double forfeit. On the Marist website, the March 10 date versus Wagner is noted as a forfeit.

When reached for comment about the unlikely end of one of the more impressive win streaks in MAAC history, Brendan Fahey, Wagner Deputy Director of Athletics, opted to look past the phantom loss and focus on the task at hand: capturing the program’s sixth-straight MAAC title this weekend at the conference tournament in Poughkeepsie, NY.

“At the beginning of each season, Wagner women’s water polo’s goal is to win a MAAC Championship and represent our school and the conference at NCAA’s,” Fahey said. “This weekend we are fortunate to be one of four teams remaining to have this opportunity.”

2017 UCSB Winter Invitational Water Polo

Chris Vidale and his Marist squad. Photo Courtesy: Eric Isaacs/UCSB

Chris Vidale, Marist head coach, also chose to look past the scheduling kerfuffle. This weekend the Red Foxes will host the MAAC Championships for the 17th straight year. With yet another opportunity to tag their primary antagonists with their first conference loss (in the water) since April 11, 2015—and advance to NCAA for the first time since 2010—Vidale, now in his third season at Marist, said: “It’s big to win the MAAC—and the opportunity to win at home is awesome.”

For Wagner (28-9; 13-1 MAAC), Marist (21-15; 12-2 MAAC), Iona (14-16; 9-5 MAAC)—the #3 seed—and fourth-seeded Virginia Military Institute (16-12; 6-8 MAAC), this weekend is all about opportunity. But, baring a monumental upset, only the Seahawks and Red Foxes have realistic hopes to advance to Sunday’s championship final at the McCann Natatorium, which will be broadcast on ESPN3. VMI, Wagner’s semifinal opponent, dropped both its matches this season by a cumulative score of 37-12. In 18 attempts, the Keydets have never beaten the Seahawks.

[Fan in The Stands: A Smorgasbord of Water Polo, Brooklyn-Style]

In two previous meetings in 2019, Iona lost twice to Marist by a combined score of 29-11. In championship play, the Gaels and the Red Foxes have met a total of eight times, with host Marist winning six of those contests.

Surprising La Salle goes from winless in MAAC play to contender for post-season play

The outcome this weekend should not overshadow what was an impressive finish by the top four, as well as the respectable—and by some measures spectacular–performances by a couple of conference newcomers. The most impressive campaign in 2019 was by La Salle (10-23; 5-9 MAAC), which came within a goal of rising from dead last in 2018 to the fourth and final spot in the MAAC tournament. When the season started, the Explorers had found the winners circle only once in 35 attempts over two fruitless seasons. With six losses to open 2019, their string of futility stretched to 37-straight before an 11-9 win over Salem in early February. The team, with Tom Hyham in his first year as head coach, proceeded to pick up nine more wins throughout the season, including a first-ever MAAC win on March 9, when La Salle beat St. Francis Brooklyn, one of five conference victories on the season.

[On The Record with Tom Hyham, Head Coach, La Salle Men’s and Women’s Water Polo]

A narrow 14-13 loss to VMI on March 10 proved to be decisive, allowing the Keydets to slip into the conference’s fourth and final post-season berth with six wins; St. Francis Brooklyn (7-21; 4-10 MAAC) and Villanova (12-20; 4-10 MAAC), led respectively by newcomers Bora Dimitrov (also the Terrier men’s coach) and Larry Sanders, were tied with four MAAC wins. Siena (9-23; 2-12 MAAC) finished last with two victories, a step-backwards for a program that—with five conference wins—had been the MAAC’s surprise story in 2018.

[On The Record with Larry Sanders, New Villanova Women’s Water Polo Coach]


Kelsey Snelgar. Photo Courtesy: St. Francis Athletics

Leading the scorers’ sheet is Kelsey Snelgar of St. Francis, who found the back of the net 121 times in 2019 to shatter her own previous Terrier high of 103, established last season. Her result is the second most goals in conference history behind Jess Lundgren’s total of 146, set in 2016; with 224 goals the sophomore from New Zealand is more than half way to Lundgren’s career total of 428. It will be very hard to deny Snelgar the conference’s offensive player of the year honors, a first for a Terrier. With 160 points produced on 86 goals and 74 assists, Wagner’s Erika Hardy finished first in points for the MAAC, edging out teammate Sofia Diaz Alvarez’s 151 points (106 goals, 45 assists). Worthy of mention is La Salle’s Sarah Defuso, who hammered home 92 goals in finishing third in the conference, and Jillian Schultz of Iona. With 69 goals, the freshman from Chicago picked up where her sister Hannah—who last year finished her illustrious career in the Gael maroon and gold with 379 goals.

In limited appearances (14) Marist’s Marina Hyham registered a goal-against average of 7.98; in 35 starts Katherine Campbell of Wagner had an 8.6 GAA. VMI’s Isabel French again finished with the most saves in the conference, registering 297 stops in 2019. The junior from Naperville, Illinois has a three-year total of 889, well within striking distance of the MAAC career mark of 1,149 set by Iona’s Kathleen Link in 2011.

The Seahawks were an offensive juggernaut in 2019, scoring a blistering total of 574 goals, shattering their previous conference best of 454, set last year. Wagner also was the conference’s best playing defense, allowing a total of 275 goals in 37 contests. Of course, no goals are scored in a phantom forfeit.

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Keith Davidson
4 years ago

Wagner and marist should have confirmed the California contest with the MAAC office well in advance (say, in December?), an not assumed an off site match up would count, etc….if at that time the MAAC said “no”, then these two would have played in Lexington…..easy.

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