It was a rollercoaster season filled with several highs and lows but ultimately, the Stags came out on top when they needed it the most as they captured the illustrious Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championship this past Sunday, Nov. 5 after defeating top-seeded host Monmouth University 2-1. The win gave the Stags their second MAAC Championship in the last three years.

After finishing the season with a 4-2 conference record, the Stags were awarded No. 3 in the MAAC Tournament. In their first round matchup, the Stags had to take on No. 2 Long Island University Brooklyn, where the winner would advance to the MAAC Championship game. Fairfield took care of LIU Brooklyn in easy fashion, as they would go on to dominate in a 6-0 blowout.

In the game for the Stags, graduate student Hannah Pike led the way as she set the tone early by scoring two quick goals in just the first 10 minutes of the contest to give Fairfield a 2-0 advantage.

Senior Andrea Soler followed up with a goal of her own, her team-leading eighth goal of the season, pushing Fairfield’s lead to three. First-year Danielle Profita joined the party as well, as she knocked in a goal to increase Fairfield’s lead to four as LIU continued to struggle to score.

In the 43rd minute of the game, Fairfield struck once again as Jamie Appelberg ‘18 connected on a pass by Jacklyn Gallagher ‘18 to give them their fifth goal of the game. Already scoring two goals on the game, Pike would strike once again for her third goal of the game with less than 10 minutes remaining in the game to close the game out for the Stags as they came out victorious 6-0 over LIU Brooklyn. Although the Stags dominated on offense, they also performed tremendous on defense shutting out LIU, giving goalkeeper Caitlin Gilligan ‘19 her fourth shutout on the season.

With the dominating win, the Stags earned a spot in the MAAC Championship where they were set to face off against No. 1 Monmouth University after they knocked off No. 4 Rider.

The only thing standing in the way for a Fairfield MAAC Championship and National Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament birth was the defending MAAC Champions and host, Monmouth.

The start of the game saw the defending champions being the aggressor, as they were attacking the ball on every single possession. Monmouth’s aggression worked out for the better, as they struck early just seven minutes into the game, knocking down the game’s first goal off the stick of Josephine Van Der Hoop ‘20. The goal seemed to give Monmouth some momentum as they would continue their aggressive play through the first half of play, keeping the Stags on their feet. Fortunately for the Stags, they were able to weather the storm and limit the damage to just one goal heading into the halftime.

The start of the second half would see the momentum shift toward Fairfield’s direction as now the tables had turned as the Stags’ offense became the aggressors. In the 41st minute of the contest, defender Cassie Hughes ‘19 gained control of a ball on the Fairfield side and sent a long pass down the center of the field to find the stick of Pike, who skipped past two Monmouth defenders before knocking a shot just past the opposing goalkeeper. The goal tied the game at one for the Stags. “That play was a game changer,” stated head coach Jackie Kane. “It was incredible vision for Cassie to see that lane and make that pass, plus Hannah’s composure to finish the play really made a difference in how this game played out.”

Pike would not be satisfied with just one goal as she would strike once again, following a penalty corner for the Stags. With less than 14 minutes remaining in the game, Lilly Auch ‘21 passed the ball to the top of the circle reaching Pike, who hit a low shot just inside the post to give Fairfield a 2-1 lead. The goals from Pike would be all the offense the Stags needed as they would go on to shut down Monmouth’s offense for the remainder of the game, sealing the 2-1 victory and a 2017 MAAC Championship.

Following the game, Pike was named the MAAC Tournament MVP after a weekend that saw her score a total of five goals, three coming against LIU with the other two coming in the decisive championship game. Senior Erin Buckley, Gallagher and Hughes would also receive recognition for their performances throughout the weekend as they earned spots in the MAAC All-Tournament team.

Fairfield returns to the national stage when they travel to take on Boston University in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament on Wednesday, Nov. 8 at New Balance Field on the Boston University campus. The winner of this game will advance to play the University of Connecticut in a first round game scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 11.

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