Season ends for Siena women’s basketball in MAAC quarterfinals; Jaques’ future as head coach uncertain

Siena head coach Ali Jaques is shown during Tuesday's game in Atlantic City. (Anthony Sorbellini/MAAC Sports)

Siena head coach Ali Jaques is shown during Tuesday's game in Atlantic City. (Anthony Sorbellini/MAAC Sports)

The Siena women’s basketball season ended Wednesday with a 63-55 loss to top-seeded Marist in the MAAC tournament quarterfinals, and the game could also serve as the last game for Ali Jaques as the Saints’ head coach.

Jaques coached the 2020-21 season in the final year of her contract at Siena, and the coach acknowledged after Wednesday’s loss at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey, that the program could move in a different direction following its third consecutive losing season that ended without the team making it to the league’s semifinals.

“There’s things you can control in life and there’s things you can’t, and that’s something that I don’t have control over right now — and I’ve got some players that I’m consoling and are hurting, and that’s what I’m worried about right now, is our players,” Jaques said during Wednesday’s post-game teleconference regarding her status at Siena. “I’m not worried about myself. I always land on my feet, and I’ll be fine whatever choices and decisions are made moving forward.”

The 2020-21 campaign was Jaques’ ninth at the helm. With Siena’s season-ending loss Wednesday, the Saints are 116-148 during her tenure, which includes only two winning seasons. 

After Wednesday’s game, Siena athletic director John D’Argenio said in a text message that, “as we normally do, we meet with coaches shortly after their season concludes to discuss and assess,” in response to a question regarding the future status of Jaques as the women’s basketball program’s head coach.

Coming off a win Tuesday in the MAAC tournament first round, Siena (No. 9 seed, 4-8 overall) carried over its momentum from that victory against Niagara into its third matchup of the season with Marist (No. 1, 16-3). Siena led 19-13 after one quarter and led by as many as 11 points early in the second quarter, but Marist headed into the break with a 32-30 advantage. Siena never led after halftime, as Marist put together a 23-8 third quarter to take complete control of the contest.

“We were in such a scoring drought in the third quarter,” Jaques said. “We couldn’t seem to pull ourselves out of it.”

Down 58-41 with seven minutes to go, Siena put together a 14-5 run to get within five points with 90 seconds left. Marist, though, answered with a basket on its next possession and head coach Brian Giorgis’ team maintained a three-possession advantage throughout the game’s final minute.

Marist had defeated Siena both times the teams played during the regular season, and both of those games saw Marist win by double-digit margins.

For Marist, Sarah Barcello scored a game-high 20 points Wednesday, while Willow Duffell had a double-double with 14 points and 14 rebounds.

Margo Peterson had a team-high 13 points for Siena, while Isis Young — the MAAC’s leading scorer on the season — was limited to 11 points on 4 of 17 shooting.

“I think she lost her legs through the game,” Giorgis said of Young. “She has to do an awful lot for them.”

Jaques said her squad lost to a “really talented Marist team,” but seconded that Young had to use a lot of energy to lead Siena past Niagara in Tuesday’s contest. Young scored 26 points in Tuesday’s contest.

“Honestly, I think Ice missed shots. I’m going to have to go back and look at the film on that,” Jaques said. “I don’t think she had as much bounce [Wednesday] as she did [Tuesday]. I think her legs were shot.”

After the defeat, Jaques credited her team for its “tremendous resilience” throughout a season played amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. Siena experienced multiple pandemic-related pauses of in-person team activities, and at one point played a game this season with only six players.

“There were many opportunities that we could have opted out and called it a day, but that’s not how we’re made at Siena,” said Jaques, who tested positive for COVID-19 at one point during the campaign. “That’s not what our culture is about. I thought we left everything on the court.”

Will Jaques be back for a 10th season at Siena?

That answer, in all likelihood, will come relatively soon.

“I hope that the administration makes the best decision for the best of the program moving forward,” Jaques said. “If that’s me, I’ll be grateful. If it’s not, I’ll walk away knowing I gave it everything I had.”

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