On a sunny afternoon at Rafferty Stadium before a crowd of over 1,000 fans, the Fairfield Stags suffered their second straight loss of the season at the hands of the Bucknell Bison to start the season at 0-2. Up 4-3 at halftime, the defending Colonial Athletic Association regular season champions could not keep up with a furious Bucknell second half attack as they were outscored 10-4 in the final two periods.
The first two periods of the game were fairly even, with each team trading quality possessions that resulted in stout defensive stops or shots just wide of the cage. Despite the Stags’ 4-3 lead at halftime, the one goal difference certainly seemed tenable going into the break.
The momentum dramatically changed when the Bison came out for the third period, as they outshot the Stags 25-2 and cemented their dominance on the defensive end with numerous caused turnovers.
Although the Stags knotted the game at six with just over six minutes to play in the third, Bucknell finished the game on a torrid 7-2 run. Fairfield struggled to find momentum offensively.
The Stag offense that pocketed 10 goals against Richmond in their first game was stymied by the Bison, as it seemed as though Bucknell held possession of the ball for the entire second half. When the Stags were given their chances they could not convert, as they went 0-2 on man-up opportunities compared to Bucknell’s 2-2 success when they held the advantage.
Throughout the game, the Stags were dominated in various statistical categories. They were ultimately outshot 60-19, and lost the vital ground ball and faceoff battle 36-17 and 19-6 respectively.
“Losing the faceoff battle certainly did not help,” Head Coach Andy Copelan said. He also added that “lacrosse, like any other sport, is a possession game and when you are on the losing end it is always an uphill climb.”
Despite the loss, the Stags were led offensively by midfielder TJ Neubauer ‘16 who tallied a hat trick to go along with one assist. Junior Tyler Behring, the team’s goalie, provided the crowd with a multitude of jaw-dropping stops to finish with 23 saves, a career high.
Although the Stags have not begun the season how they would have liked to, last year saw the squad struggle early on before they went on to compile a 9-6 record. With an experienced team, the Stags will rely heavily on their upperclassmen to lead the way this spring.
When asked about how the team could rebound going into next weekend’s tilt with the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, Copelan said, “Honestly, I think our guys need to not think about lacrosse for a couple days. The locker room wants it so bad and sometimes the emotions get the best of you and I think that is what happened today.”
The Stags will continue on their journey through the season as they defend their supremacy in the CAA and continue to establish themselves as a premier college lacrosse program in the nation.
After their trip to Piscataway, New Jersey on Saturday, Feb. 27 to take on Rutgers, you can see the Stags face off against UMass Lowell on Tuesday, March 1 at Rafferty Stadium.