(Poughkeepsie) – Coming off a 29-6 season, its first two NCAA Tournament victories in program history and a Sweet Sixteen appearance, the Marist women\’s basketball team was ranked 22nd in the final USA Today/ESPN Women\’s College Basketball Poll, which was released on Wednesday. This is the first time the program has ever been nationally ranked.
This season, Marist set a program record with its victory total, eclipsing the previous mark of 23 set last season. The Red Foxes tied the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference record by winning 17 regular-season league games, earning at least a share of the conference regular-season title for the fourth consecutive season. Marist then went on to win the MAAC Tournament for the third time in the last four years.
In the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, Marist earned a 67-63 victory over fourth-seeded Ohio State on March 17 for the program\’s first victory against a Big Ten team in its history. On March 19, Marist cruised to a 73-59 win against fifth-seeded Middle Tennessee State, which had entered the contest with the nation\’s longest winning streak at 27 games. The Red Foxes\’ season came to an end with a 65-46 loss to top-seeded Tennessee on March 25. The Lady Volunteers went on to win the national championship.
The Red Foxes closed the season ranked first in the country in fewest turnovers per game at 11.6. Marist also ranked in the top 26 in six other categories: scoring defense (10th, 54.4 points per game allowed), won-lost percentage (15th, 82.9), scoring margin (18th, 13.0), assists per game (21st, 16.1), field-goal percentage (23rd, 44.5) and field-goal percentage defense (26th, 36.7). Individually, freshman forward Rachele Fitz (Seven Hills, Ohio) ranked 15th in the country in field-goal percentage (56.9) and 86th in free-throw percentage (81.3). Senior point guard Alisa Kresge (Holmdel, N.J.) was 21st in the nation in assists per game (5.4), and junior guard Nikki Flores (Montvale, N.J.) was 46th in free-throw percentage (83.6).
Fitz was named MAAC Tournament Most Valuable Player, MAAC Rookie of the Year and Second Team All-MAAC this season. She also set the conference record with 11 Rookie of the Week selections. Red-shirt junior Meg Dahlman (Spencerport, N.Y.) was named Second Team All-MAAC and was a MAAC All-Tournament Team selection. Kresge, who departs Marist as the program\’s all-time leaders in assists and games played, was a Second Team All-MAAC selection and earned her third MAAC Defensive Player of the Year award.
The Red Foxes received their first top-25 vote in program history in the Dec. 12, 2006 edition of the poll. The following week, Marist earned two points in the poll, but had not received any since then until Wednesday\’s final poll of the season was released.
Marist will return nine letterwinners next season. Those nine – Fitz, Flores, Dahlman, junior guard Courtney Kolesar (Concord, Ohio), junior forward Sarah Smrdel (Mentor, Ohio), junior guard Alexis Waters (Lansing, Mich.), red-shirt sophomore guard Julianne Viani (Poughkeepsie, N.Y.), freshman guard Brittany Engle (South Easton, Mass.) and freshman forward Lynzee Johnson (Xenia, Ohio) – combined for 90.5 percent of the Red Foxes\’ scoring and 84.0 percent of the team\’s rebounding this season.