Sophomore Riley Hellstein stepped up to help her team get a pivotal win against Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference foe Monmouth University in their game at Rafferty Stadium on Wednesday, March 15. With only 9.8 seconds remaining in regulation time, with the score tied 7-7, Hellstein fired a shot at Monmouth and helped her team get the win, 8-7. It was Monmouth’s second loss of the season and the Stags sixth win.

The game-winning goal was her 13th goal of the season, but her third of the game, which gave Hellstein her second hat trick of the season. Not only were Hellstein’s goals necessary for the win, her offensive play at center was vital for the team in the second half, where she controlled five of the six draws.

“Riley played excellent. She’s coming off of an ACL [injury.] She didn’t play in the beginning of the season and she’s just getting into her form right now,” said head coach Mike Waldvogel. “We were trying to play the backside and she made a great move into the cage.”

Starting off at the center for the first half, Monmouth controlled the first draw, but Fairfield was the first team to get one up on the boards, coming from a free position shot from Alex Fehmel ‘17. Less than a minute later, Hellstein was able to score another goal off a free position shot, putting her team up 2-0. The streak continued for the Stags and Monmouth fouled yet again, giving Fairfield’s Julieanne Mascera ‘16 another opportunity for a free position shot that allowed her team to get ahead 3-0.

With 15 minutes left in the first half, Monmouth was finally able to get their first goal off Caleigh O’Connor ‘17, who had her first career start against Monmouth. O’Connor replaced Fairfield’s usual starter, Chelsey Sidaras ‘16, after she sat the game out due to injury. In the first half, O’Connor stepped up, making six saves for the Stags.

“She did amazing, she did a great job. We weren’t sure because she hadn’t played the whole year,” said Waldvogel, “she’s a walk-on, she’s been working really hard, and it was a big game, and she really stepped up.”

With the game at 3-1, Hellstein posted her second free position goal for the team, putting them up 4-1. Monmouth quickly answered back with three consecutive goals that tied up the game, but that didn’t stop the momentum for the Hawks. Tied 4-4, Monmouth won the draw control and carried the ball to the goal, netting their fifth goal of the game. Ahead by one, Fehmel was called on a foul and the Hawks were able to take advantage of a free position shot. With Monmouth ahead by two with six minutes remaining, the Stags failed to get another goal on the board, which gave the Hawks the lead heading into the second.

Monmouth had outshot Fairfield 17-13 in the first and controlled eight of the 11 draws, which helped put them on top.

In the second, Colleen Reynolds ‘16 was able to tighten the gap between the two opponents coming off an assist from Courtney Chmil ‘15. Junior Jenna Fuchs then tied it up for the team. Tied 6-6, Monmouth regained the lead, but it would be the only goal that the Stags would allow for the Hawks in the second. With 19 minutes remaining, Fairfield had plenty of opportunities to get on the board, but failed to do so, until Mascera scored from a free-position shot with three minutes remaining.

Fairfield was clearly outplaying Monmouth, outshooting them 12-4 and forcing them to make seven saves. But it wasn’t until there were 9.8 seconds left that Hellstein took the shot that ultimately got the win for the Stags.

“Looking back at the game in the film, I realized it was a lot harder of move to make than I thought it was at the time,” said Hellstein. “But, in the moment, I just knew that I needed to score and hoped it would happen.”

The close win was a big one for the Stags that helped them better their record that helped them secure a spot in the MAAC playoffs.

“We played the best we have ever played, both offense and defense,” said Waldvogel. “The offense controlled the ball, they aggressively attacked it, and the defense just played an amazing game.”

But the win against Marist, on Saturday, April 18, was even bigger. The 10-9 victory over the Red Foxes seeded the Stags second in the MAAC championship, giving them a bye in the semifinals of the tournament. The Stags will be headed to Buffalo, New York for the championship game of the MAAC.

“The way it looks right now, Canisius and Monmouth will be the two teams we play and we’re gonna take it one at a time,” said Waldvogel. “Both teams are very similar, they’re very good offensively and they play the zone defensively so we got to be prepared for that.”

Before heading to Buffalo, the Stags will conclude their regular season, against Quinnipiac in Hamden on Wednesday, April 22.

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