Daily Archives: November 19, 2008
Despite a loss in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the women’s soccer team has nothing to be ashamed of.
Fairfield won the second most games in program history with a 15-5-3 overall record. The Stags won the MAAC Tournament, beating two teams that they had lost to in the regular season. Then, in the NCAA Tournament, they held the number one offense in the nation to one goal.
‘We played the way we wanted to play,’ said O’Brien. ‘We saw through scouting they were dangerous in some areas and we minimized those chances. For a team that scores three and a half goals on average in the Big XII, we thought that we did a very good job.’
A win against Oklahoma State could have been a program-defining win, but the Stags are still up-and-coming.
Four years ago, Fairfield also made the NCAA Tournament. But, the Stags lost 4-0 to Duke in the first round.
That year, the Stags were just happy to make it. This year, they expected more. Three seniors played on both teams and, while they all cherished their time at Fairfield, they couldn’t contain the disappointment of losing when they knew the result easily could have been reversed.
‘Winning the MAAC Championship two out of four years has been a great experience, but we looked to go further than we have,’ said senior Caroline Downey.
Oklahoma State scored the game’s lone goal ten minutes into the second half when a cross into the middle found an unmarked Siera Strawser, who pushed the ball past freshman goalie Kelly Boudreau.
‘It’s always a success (since) we won our conference,’ said senior Robyn Decker. ‘But this was a lot harder, especially losing 1-0 on one stupid mistake.’
Despite the Stags’ successful season and the bright future ahead, the loss was still painful.
‘We play to win,’ said O’Brien. ‘Our kids have that type of mentality. But the program is going in the right direction. We think we can compete against these premier teams. These kids are still disappointed because they felt they could win the game.
‘If they come in and beat us 4-0 like Duke, hats off to them, they’re the better team. But we didn’t think we faced a better team,’ O’Brien added.
Even though they didn’t make it over the hump this time, O’Brien gave 11 freshmen significant playing time. The experience they received playing in the tournament should help cement the program’s future as one of the best in the northeast, with the potential to be nationally competitive.
‘We had eleven freshmen out there,’ said O’Brien. ‘Our youth and inexperience is now polished. It’s a big step for our program.’
Unfortunately, the current senior class won’t be there when Fairfield wins in the tournament. But they can have the knowledge that they help set the program on the road to success.
‘It doesn’t feel so good now,’ said senior Ahna Johnson, who was recently named to ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America Women’s Soccer First Team. ‘But we were happy to be there. We felt like we were in it the whole time.’
Johnson, the MAAC Offensive Player of the Year, Downey and Decker have played their last game for Fairfield. But O’Brien’s first recruits started moving the program in a positive direction.
‘These are girls that came here when the new coaching staff started here,’ said O’Brien after Fairfield’s senior day ceremony. ‘They bought into us and our plan to establish us as a legitimate Division I program.
‘They made a lot of sacrifices and stood the test of time,’ said O’Brien.
As the team broke huddle, senior guard Jon Han walked past his teammates and towards the court, his face was telling a story of concentration.
A year ago, under such circumstances, Han may have been excitable and frenzied. But on this night, Han walked with a purpose.
‘As I stepped onto the court, I could see in everyone’s eyes that they were ready for the game,’ Han said.
‘Our whole mindset going into this game was that we wanted to impose our will,’ head coach Ed Cooley said.
Fairfield did just that, as the Stags bounced back from a season-opening loss against No. 12 Memphis and ousted crosstown rival Sacred Heart, 70-54, in front of 4,959 raucous fans at the Arena at Harbor Yard.
‘That was exciting,’ head coach Ed Cooley said of the crowd. ‘We need this building to rock like it did tonight.
‘That felt like home court tonight,’ he said.
Warren Edney built off of a 24-point outing in the team’s first game with 14 points against the Pioneers. His fellow forwards, junior Greg Nero and Anthony Johnson, also totaled double-digit points in the win.
The Stags demonstrated newfound depth at the position, in part due to the presence of senior Mike Evanovich and freshman Ryan Olander as reliable options off of the bench.
‘I definitely think we executed our plan defensively and offensively,’ Cooley said. ‘We wanted to play inside-out. We wanted to make sure that our big guys touched the ball and I think because of that we controlled the game.’
Fairfield’s frontcourt was equally impressive defensively, outrebounding the Pioneers, 41-35, and limiting the team’s scoring chances in the paint.
‘They handled us,’ said Sacred Heart head coach Dave Bike. ‘They really pushed us out of position. We couldn’t play our game from the start.’
Junior guard Herbie Allen bounced back from a difficult season-opener, scoring eight points in 27 minutes and flashing his ability to score in transition.
‘Coach told me to be more aggressive,’ Allen said. ‘I tried to come out and play with more energy than tonight.’
Allen also limited Sacred Heart’s Chauncey Hardy, the team’s premier perimeter scoring threat, to three points on two of eight shooting.
‘Today, we showed more alertness defensively, and I think that playing Memphis gave us that level of confidence and that level of toughness,’ Cooley said.
That toughness will be put to the test again, as the Stags travel to Puerto Rico to take part in the inaugural O’Reilly’s Auto Parts Puerto Rico Tip-Off, which begins this Thursday in San Juan.
In addition to Memphis and Virgina Tech, whom the Stags draw as their first-round opponent on Nov. 20, the Tip-Off also includes several other impressive teams, including Southern California, Seton Hall, Xavier and Missouri.
‘We’re very excited, and I think it’s a great opportunity for our kids,’ Cooley said. ‘I think it is a tougher field than the [EA Sports Maui Invitational], and Maui is one of the most prestigious tournaments in the country.
‘It’s definitely one of the best tournaments in the country,’ Han said.
Despite a quick turnover ‘- the team departs for San Juan just hours after the Sacred Heart game – and a stretch of five games in nine days, Cooley was quick to dispel the idea that fatigue may play a factor in their performance in the tournament.
‘I think it is a test of our will again,’ Cooley said. ‘I don’t want us to be mentally tired. Our legs may be a little wobbly, but we want to go there to get better. It’s uphill; nobody knows who Fairfield is in Puerto Rico.’
Despite the momentum of a victory over Sacred Heart, the Stags are quick to temper expectations heading into the tournament. All but two teams that comprise the fields of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off qualified for postseason play a season ago, three of which played in the NCAA tournament.
In addition, with the exception of Xavier and Tennessee-Chatanooga, all five other teams on the schedule play in major conferences.
‘We have yet to play a bad five-on-five outing since we began the season, but our fans need to be patient with the tournament we are playing in,’ Cooley said. ‘Do I expect to win? Absolutely. We’re going to go there and do everything we can to get our W.’
‘But if that doesn’t happen, we need another building like we had tonight,’ Cooley said.
This time next week, we will all be home prepping for that big night called Thanksgiving Eve. It is the one night when you can guarantee that you will see everyone from your high school class at the bar.
As soon as you step foot into your hometown alcohol oasis, you are instantly catapulted into a mini high school reunion ‘- prepare to answer a thousand questions from past classmates, including ones that you were never friends with’ before but somehow end up engaging in awkward, drunken conversations.
Thanksgiving Eve has the potential to be one of the best or worst nights of your five day break. Catching up with your old high school friends and getting drunk while bragging to everyone how amazing your life at Fairfield is can be a pretty good time.
But beware of the classic hometown creepers that come out of the woodwork on nights like these. You can guarantee that you will get stuck in a long and random conversation about the good old days of high school with some kid you probably only glanced at in the hallways. Practicing the ‘oh, I see my friend across the bar’ look may come in handy over break and save you from experiencing a severe buzzkill.
My advice is to get drunk, have fun with friends from home and work up a nice appetite for the feast you have awaiting you the next day. Take advantage of how happy your parents are that you’re home for a few days. It’s always nice to be taken care of and to spend quality time with your family.
So use this Thanksgiving break to eat some great food, drink some quality liquor and spend time with old friends. Soak it up while you can, but, I’m sure that by Sunday night, we will all be more than ready to go back to sandwiches from the Deli, 180s at the Grape and Fairfield Beach.
The trees are now bare, and we students are restless. In short, it’s time for a well deserved break. Next Tuesday we’ll all part ways with Fairfield for a five-day hometown retreat to relax, sleep, drink and feast in preparation for the homestretch of the fall semester.
If you’re anything like me, there are a handful of essentials you always make sure to pack while home for Thanksgiving break, namely laptops, iPods, keys, condoms and booze.
My favorite part about Thanksgiving break is seeing friends I haven’t seen in ages. Granted this usually gives rise to a fair share of awkward conversations and experiences, but it’s fun as hell. So as you go through your phonebook and make plans with your high school friends it’s inevitable that you’ll run into the ex for the first time in years. You’ll either be kicking yourself when you realize she’s now a stellar bombshell, or on the other hand, asking yourself whether a paper or plastic bag would better remedy the visual anomaly.
Thanksgiving break certainly has its ups and downs. On the plus side: I can’t wait to get sloshed at some local bars with old friends on Thanksgiving Eve and enjoy the best remedy for that hangover – an amazing Thanksgiving Day banquet. On the down side: I’m neither excited for being incessantly nagged by my mother for my drunken debauchery, nor being dragged to the Roosevelt Field Mall on Black Friday by my wonderful girlfriend.
Thanksgiving, for many of us, is a bottle of emotions. While we would like to see our families and friends, whom we’ve conveniently neglected to talk to since the semester began, we become increasingly aware that the semester is coming to a close.
So, enjoy your time at home and make some reckless decisions. Not only will anyone you truly care about it, but it’ll be your last chance to party before all academic hell breaks loose Dec. 1.