A delightful Sunday afternoon at Lessing Field was the setting for the Stags’ final non-conference game on the 2016 slate as they took on perennial Atlantic Coast Conference power Syracuse. In a game that was certainly closer than the score indicated, Fairfield fell to the Orange 3-0, going to a record of 1-7 on the year.
The game’s first 30 minutes were played quite evenly, with both teams threatening often on the offensive end. The Stags controlled possession well, effectively putting together nice passing sequences and sending dangerous long balls into the box.
However, in the 32nd minute, Syracuse struck first after a Fairfield foul yielded the Orange a free kick in the attacking half. A lofty ball was sent to the far post, where a Syracuse player corralled the ball and knocked a precise pass across the box where a teammate was waiting to tap it in to make the score 1-0.
Four minutes later, another set piece crippled the Stags when a scrum in front of the goal gave the Orange an easy goal to make the score 2-0 heading into the half. Fairfield finished the first 45 minutes with two shots on goal, but they did not come easy.
“The first half was a challenge because of the wind,” said head coach Jim O’Brien. “We couldn’t change the point of the attack like we wanted to because we did not have the ability to drive the ball into the wind like that.”
Once the second half began, Fairfield started to put together some of their best offensive runs of the season. In the 79th minute, forward Brenna Brown ’17 sent in a cross to midfielder Holly Habyan ’19 and the sophomore volleyed the ball out of the air and rocketed the shot just over the crossbar.
It was clear that Fairfield was unafraid of the Orange’s big back line as they attacked time and time again, finishing the second half with five shots, two of them coming on goal. Although they failed to finish their chances, their offensive performance was certainly encouraging.
In the 72nd minute, the Stags had a defensive breakdown when a defender lost the ball past the midfield line and a Syracuse attacker took advantage of the breakaway and slid the ball past goalkeeper Jenna Pike ‘18 to make the game 3-0, which would be the final score.
Fairfield has played a grueling non-conference schedule, playing some of the top teams in the country the past few weeks. The extremely physical schedule has undoubtedly prepared the Stags well before they begin Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play next Saturday against Canisius.
“Every team we have played so far is a top level program,” O’Brien said. “Their losses have come to the likes of Boston College, Penn State, some of the top teams in the country. So we are excited for next week.”
Stag fans should be looking forward to the Canisius matchup as Fairfield looks to begin to turn their season around when they welcome the up-state New York school for a 1 p.m. kick-off on Saturday, Sept. 17 at Lessing Field.