MAAC home schedule begins against Iona

by Robert Janish

Senior Sports Writer

After earning a win over the Manhattan Jaspers on the road last Saturday, the Griffs return home to play their first home conference game of 2017 against the Iona Gaels, who started their Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference schedule with a loss against the Niagara Purple Eagles. A win over the Gaels could be a good way to build momentum, with a potential winning streak in the conference at hand.

“[The team] has been taking time to work through everything and working a lot on our defense and offensive sets to prepare for [Iona],” said junior Lauren Smolensky after a week off following their 15-5 victory over Manhattan in the Griffs’ MAAC opener.

Junior Erica Evans added that the team was working on systematic things and the week to prepare was real helpful for this matchup.

“We always play well at home, so it’s always nice to have home games,” she said. She continued, saying that their games at home are more meaningful when it’s against a MAAC opponent.

Smolensky added by mentioning how last week’s win over Manhattan will really help them to bring the energy against Iona in order to keep their momentum rolling forward.

Head Coach Scott Teeter said that having the week off helped the team to have some maintenance days and improve on their game. “I thought in Manhattan, we did a lot of things well, but we still have more a couple more gears in us,” he said.

Teeter also said that after a long week off, he’s getting the team back into running their systems, fine tuning some of them and putting their scout in.

Smolensky believes the Gaels are going to be a physical team that works very hard. “We’ve just got to be able to match that and top them off,” she said.

She continued, saying that in order to prepare for games, she always tries to bring her best to practice and to stay focused every day.

Evans says it’s important to keep up the momentum and to push through the rest of the season. She also said that every win is important, no matter the opponent.

Teeter said the way the Griffs played against Manhattan after nearly two weeks off was impressive, and for another week off between games, that there’s really no excuse that they shouldn’t be fresh and ready for the grind for the remainder of the season.

“We were in some really tough, physical games playing three top 10 teams, some Power 5 conference teams that we won,” he said on the team’s tough non-conference schedule. “Those games, you put extra wear and tear on your body than you do when you win by 15.”

“We don’t want to be the best now, we want to be the best later on,” Evans said on the team’s future. She stated that their goal is to be their best by the MAAC Tournament and to host it, which is what they’re striving for.

While Manhattan is a team that relies on more finesse play and speed, Teeter said Iona is a more physical team.

“They play more physical, they body up hard on you,” he said. “We have to earn everything we’re going to get on offense, we’re probably going to take a hit every time we go in on offense, so we have to make them pay the price on free position shots and really battle through.”

Teeter added it’s important to overcome the Gaels’ strong defensive players who have an ability to score. He said that the team needs to play well and physically, sending double teams and getting the Gaels on their heels and really attack them, rather than allowing them to go on the attack.”

Both Evans and Smolensky believe a victory is important for their season, as they both said it’s also their expectation to come out with a victory in MAAC games. They said that this upcoming matchup against Iona is no different. In order to accomplish that, Evans and Smolensky said the keys are to work hard, play a full game, and win the regular season title.

In terms of playing at home, Teeter said that it’s good to have home-field advantage and added that Iona is a good team, but they’re not one of the top teams in the MAAC, so it’s good that the Griffs are the favorite.

He once again stressed the importance of running their systems properly in this game. He also said he will try to get some players that otherwise may not play toward the end of the season some much needed playing time, as it’s important for building both your future and this year’s run toward the MAAC Championship.

Evans said it’s important to not look past any team and that Iona’s very good. She added that it’s important for the team to work on themselves and focus on the little things that they can do on the field to get the win. In order to prepare, they’ve been working on one-on-ones and high pressure defense so they could be successful this weekend.

Teeter added that his team is very tough to play against at home.

“We have a very good fan base compared to our MAAC opponents,” he said. Having conference opponents from cities seven to eight hours away makes for a far road trip for them and an advantage for Canisius.

He said that being successful at home is part of the goal of hosting the MAAC Championship

“To host, you have to finish in first and we’ve proven down the way to finish in first is go undefeated and go one game at a time,” Teeter said.

Teeter views a win over Iona as checking off another box, and if it’s not checked, then the other games become more important.

“This is one that we need to have,” he said. “If you’re playing very confident, things tend to fall your way and if we can have that, playing at home with the crowd, playing confident and really playing our style of game at our level of play, I really do believe that we’ll be okay, that we’ll be able to reach our goal.”

After playing Iona tomorrow at home, the Griffs will then host the Siena Saints at home next Wednesday and hope to solidify what has become their goal of being the team to beat within the conference.

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