On Friday, Nov. 4 the three seeded Fairfield University field hockey team traveled to Staten Island, N.Y. to take on the number two seed Wagner College for a chance to play in the Northeast Conference Championship final. The Stags have been on fire offensively in their past seven games, averaging four goals per game. They did not reach that mark in this game, however, the end result was still a win.
The Stags ended with roughly half of Wagner’s shots with nine to their 17, although they had seven shots on goal to Wagner’s eight. Goalie Payton Rahn ‘25 played a great game in net with seven saves compared to Wagner’s five which would prove to be the difference in the close contest.
The Stags were successful in moving the ball quickly around the field and possessing the ball for long periods of time. Their offense consisted of a lot of horizontal passes to open up space on the field according to the game’s official recap.
Many of the Stags early opportunities came from their three early penalty corners in the first quarter. Fairfield failed to take advantage of them and went into the second quarter in an even game. However, the Stags failed to finish in the first quarter and did not slow their play as they continued to attack, just three minutes into the second quarter off of another penalty corner. Graduate student Frances Mirable sent in the pass to graduate student Nora Amme who then sent a behind-the-back pass to Juliana Kratz ‘23 who sent the ball past Wagner’s goalkeeper to take the lead and make the score 1-0.
Later in the quarter, the Stags got yet another penalty corner where Mirable sent in the pass to Agustina Casteluchi ‘25 who sent a one-timer into the back of the net to extend the Stags lead to 2-0 with just 1:24 left in the half.
Wagner came out much more aggressively in the second half and pushed the pace, leading to the Stags playing with a more defensive approach. Wagner began peppering shots at Rahn who stood strong and did not allow anything in.
Going into the fourth quarter, the underdog Stags were still leading 2-0 and looking to hold onto their lead and advance. Wagner aggressively attempted to keep their season alive. They got seven penalty corners and eight shots in the final quarter. Finally, the Seahawks got one past Rahn about halfway through the quarter to make the score 2-1. After allowing this goal, Rahn and the Stags defense solidified and did not allow any other goals to win the game 2-1.
“We had a good half but struggled a little bit in the second half which was a result of Wagner changing their press,” Head Coach Jackie Keane said in the game’s official recap. “We stood firm at the end as they applied pressure and showed a lot of grit. I am really proud of how the team came together to get the win.”
The number three-seeded Stags then played in the NEC championship game against the number one-seeded Rider University in a thriller. The Stags came out with seemingly a similar strategy to their counterparts in the semi-final game, moving the ball around in order to advance it up the field. Their aggressive strategy led to some early opportunities including a penalty corner.
This penalty corner was in the fifth minute of play, as Kratz got the ball and sent a nice wrist shot which got through and gave the Stags an early 1-0 lead. It was just over a minute later, however, that the Broncs worked the ball into their offensive zone which led to them receiving a penalty corner off of a Stags infraction. Rider capitalized on this opportunity, sending the ball into the back of the net evening the score once again.
This game was shaping up to be a shootout through the first six minutes of play; however, after the early offensive success for each team, their defenses woke up and locked down. From then on, most of the game was played in the middle of the field with neither team being able to formulate any real offensive opportunities through the end of the first half. Rider held a shot advantage of five to the Stags’ three but Rahn had a couple of big saves in the second quarter. The game went into halftime tied at 1-1 with an equal score going into the final half of the final game of the season according to the game’s official recap.
The Stags came out hot in the third quarter as their defense did not allow a single shot and the offense got two shots off of three corners however they failed to convert and take the lead. Going into the final quarter, the score remained even, with the Stags having some momentum from a good third quarter leading to a few chances in the fourth. The Stags took three shots in the fourth, however, only managed to get one shot on net which was stopped by Rider goalkeeper Kaitlyn Tomas. The Stags had a huge opportunity that missed the net with a shot coming off of a deflection that was sent just wide. The Stags outshot Rider five to two in the second half and had the same margin in penalty corners according to the game’s box score. However, they could not finish, leading to overtime.
Rider came out firing in overtime getting a penalty corner just two minutes in. The Broncs got a great opportunity with a shot that hit off of the crossbar, however, just 30 seconds later, the Broncs got another penalty corner. Even after Rahn made a save on the first shot, a rebound was launched to Rider’s Valeria Perales allowing her to get a shot on net and end the Stags season, winning the championship for Rider. The Stags finished the season with an overall 11-9 record and were 5-2 in NEC play, according to their official schedule.