The Fairfield University field hockey team concluded a remarkable 2019 season in which the program garnered their first National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament victory along with a record number of total wins, finishing the season 19-3 overall, and consecutive wins, with a streak of 12. They remained undefeated 6-0 in the Northeast Conference when they secured the championship title.
After an incredible battle against Rider University on Sunday, Nov. 10 which ended in a 2-1 overtime win, the Stags won the NEC championship game and were given an opening round game at their own University Field. Their NCAA journey would begin against American University (13-6), who was nationally ranked one notch ahead of them at number 23, on Wednesday, Nov. 13.
Tournament play began in bone-chilling temperatures, but the Stags were unfazed by the trying conditions and remained determined to defend their pitch. Freezing fans were kept on their toes in the first half, where Fairfield clearly had an offensive edge. In the second period, Fairfield challenged American’s goalkeeper, Fiona Minter, when bullets by Emma Matlach ‘21 and Page Lowry ‘23 forced her to make two saves.
At the beginning of the third period, Fairfield was due for a goal. Matlach answered that call promptly, finding the back of the cage a mere 37 seconds after the whistle sounded when Luzi Persiehl ‘22 came up from the right side and set her up at the center of the circle. They maintained that lead, combatting relentless pressure applied by the opposition who registered five shots, two of which made their way to Fairfield goalie Zoe Rosen ‘21. Two of Rosen’s three saves of the afternoon were back to back in the third. She followed through, batting away an attempt at 34 minutes and 44 seconds and another one with 35 minutes and six seconds on the clock. Time went stale, tasking Fairfield to uphold the upper hand for the fifteen minutes left in regulation time.
Noor Coenen of the Eagles, who ranks fourth in the nation for goals per game averaging .95, had been a threatening force the entire day. With four shots on the game, Coenen posed the biggest threat to the Stags. When she gained control of the ball and sent it towards Josie Formica, Formica was able to squash Fairfield’s lead at 50:33, impelling the winner to be decided in the final minutes of play. Junior Danielle Profita, who leads the Stags in points with 25 comprised of eight goals and nine assists, was made available when she dove and deflected the ball from Julianna Kratz ‘23 at the very end of her stick to the upper section of the net. This gave the Stags an uncomfortable one-goal lead which they would need to sustain for the final eight minutes of play.
Efforts by Mackenzie Boyle ‘22 with under three minutes outstanding gave Fairfield the cushion they needed to claim their ticket to the next round of the tournament when she scored her first career goal and thrusted her team ahead 3-1.
“Since my freshman year, we wanted to win an NCAA game and now that we finally did that, it’s just the greatest feeling,” said Profita who was responsible for the game-winning goal
Their vanguard was untouchable and the unstoppable group of women in black and red would survive another game.
Coach Jackie Kane was radiant after the game and could not sing enough praise about the group of women that she worked with all fall.
“It’s been a goal of ours from the start. All season long, this team has surprised me with their work ethic and their dedication to each other. They believe in themselves and they believe in this team. That’s what has made this season so special for me,” explained Kane.
Just two days later, the women were scheduled to travel across the state to Storrs, Conn. on unfamiliar turf to challenge the reigning Big East champions University of Connecticut Huskies (19-3) who were ranked second.
Once more, the first half was at a stand-still when not a single goal was recorded for either side. UConn amassed six shots in the first 30 minutes, blowing Fairfield’s offense out of the water who only managed one. In the third period, when Fairfield was awarded a penalty corner, Malen Iglesias ‘22 hit the ball in the vicinity of Kratz who deflected the ball into the goal and put the visiting team on the board first at 38:30.
In the final period, UConn’s Svea Boker pocketed her 23rd goal of the season, knotting the score at one. This equalizer sent the match into overtime, something the Stags knew all too well having made five appearances in extra periods this season. With only 50 seconds into the final-death interval, UConn finished up the game with a goal coming from just inside the circle. The 2-1 loss would bring the Stags to the end of an unforgettable campaign
Field hockey’s 2019 run is one for the books, and is a true testament to their unwavering strength and grit.