In an anxiety-inducing overtime battle in the opening round of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Field Hockey Championship on Wednesday, Nov. 10, the Fairfield Stags fell to the #17 University of Delaware Blue Hens, 4-3 in enemy territory.

The Stags had another remarkable regular season, with an overall 14-8 record, and a spotless 7-0 Northeast Conference record. The Stags took on the 2021 Northeast Conference Championship tournament by storm, knocking out Rider University and Long Island University, earning them the NEC Championship title. 

The last time the Stags were in the tournament was in the fall of 2019. They had made it past American University in the opening round, but were stopped in overtime by the University of Connecticut, cutting their postseason run short. 

Prior to the NCAA Tournament, Fairfield did not have a great history against Delaware, having lost both of their two matchups since 2014, however, they were riding on a six-game long win streak. Considering the season they had, the game was sure to be a tossup. 

In the first quarter, the Blue Hens beat the Stags to the scoreboard. In Fairfield’s prior two matches in the NEC Tournament a similar trend followed, and they were able to come back from a deficit. In the second quarter, the Stags seemed to respond, registering six shots to Delaware’s three. Despite their best efforts, Delaware was able to get past graduate student Zoe Rosen in goal. 

After halftime, the Stags would be in dire need of catching up. This couldn’t happen before Delaware scored again, putting Fairfield at a huge disadvantage with time running out. Graduate student Danielle Profita fed Julianna Kratz ‘23 a pass off of a corner, opening up a golden opportunity that she would take advantage of. Kratz’ seventh goal of the season was exactly the pick-me-up that her team was looking for, and it shifted the trajectory of the game. 

Senior Malen Iglesias earned an opportunity off of a penalty stroke, and found the back of the net to put the Stags within one, with just a minute and a half of play in the third period. The fourth and final quarter was life or death for Fairfield. Their only shot on goal in the final fifteen minutes of play would happen with less than five seconds on the clock. Once more, Profita was in the right place at the right time, and was able to pass from the top of the circle to Luzi Persiehl ‘22, who delivered the ball to Iglesias. Iglesias’ last-second goal secured her spot as the team leader in scoring, and her eleventh goal of the season was what kept the Stags holding on.

Stuck at a 3-3 stalemate, the opening round of the NCAA tournament would go into overtime. In the final seconds, Delaware took advantage of a scoring chance and came out on top. 

Statistically, Fairfield had the upper hand throughout, out-shooting Delaware 16 (10 SOG)-13 (7 SOG). Fairfield also tallied nine penalty corners, while Delaware only had four. The Blue Hens had a force to be reckoned with in goal, Lizzie Gaebel, who managed to stop seven shots, as compared to Rosen’s three.

Despite the fact that the season didn’t come with a picture-perfect ending that the Stags may have hoped for, they have once again fought with the type of grit and passion that drove them as far as they went. 

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