The MAAC (Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) kicked off the first day of tournament play with the announcement of their post-season awards, and the first two games of the bracket holding form.
By now most followers of women's basketball are familiar with the MAAC, even if it's only as the answer to the question "so what conference does Marist play in?" Coach Brian Giorgis' Red Foxes are the darling of the conference, having swept through the regular season undefeated and moving as high as their current #18 ranking in the ESPN/Coaches Poll, and are nursing the longest winning streak in the nation, currently at 23 games.
Not surprisingly, Giorgis was named MAAC Coach of the Year for the 5th time today, in his 9th year with the team. This was Marist's second undefeated MAAC season in the last four years.
The post-season honors didn't end with Coach Giorgis however, as senior guard Erica Allenspach was named conference Player of the Year. Allenspach was second in the conference in field goal percentage (48.3%) and free throw percentage (85.0%). She also posted a league leading 2.84 assist-to-turnover ratio in conference. Allenspach, a two-time Player of the Week this season, finished the regular season fifth in points per game (13.2) and assists per game (3.0). She scored a career-high 34 points against Houston on December 20 en route to Duel in the Desert Tournament MVP honors. She was joined on the All-Conference 1st team by teammate Corielle Yarde, and 3rd team by forward Brandy Gang.
In tournament action, despite having Ali Heller named 6th player of the year, Rider ended a somewhat disappointing season with a 57-47 loss at the hands of Saint Peter's. Rider only shot 27.3% for the game, and that was the difference, as they matched Saint Peter's in rebounds, assists and turnovers. Saint Peter's was led by 2nd team All-Conference selection Jynae Judson's double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds.
In the other first round game of the day, as expected Canisus defeated Niagara, 63-52. Canisus freshman Jamie Ruttle was named Rookie of the Year in the MAAC, but Canisus was led by three double figure scorers, Micayla Drysdale (13), Ashley Durham off the bench with 12, and Steph McDonald (10). Niagara was led by 3rd team All Conference choice Liz Flooks, who scored 17 on 6+12 shooting.
The action will pick up considerably tomorrow, with four quarterfinal matchups. Canisus kicks things off at 9:30 am (yes, that is not an error) vs. 2nd seeded Loyola-Maryland, followed by the 3 vs 6 matchup of Manhattan vs Iona at 11:30 am.
Saint Peter's is rewarded for their win with a matchup at 1:30 pm vs Allenspach and top seeded Marist at 1:30 pm. In the final game of the day, host team Fairfield, the 5th seed, will tip off against 4th seed Siena.
Games can be followed on MAAC.com. Saturday morning's semi-finals (9:30 am) will be broadcast on the MSG network.