Head Coach Carl Rees and the men’s soccer team entered last Wednesday night’s game against Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) opponent Boston College with hopes of pulling off an upset.

But even after a 2-1 loss and a failed second-half comeback, Rees and the Stags were not disappointed.

‘You have to understand that this is a top ACC team,’ said Rees of the 5-4-1 Eagles, which were ranked first in the country going into last year’s national tournament. ‘We weren’t scared to play, and we showed real good character.

‘We had a goal disallowed and we scored a goal. At the end, there was only one team happy at the final whistle. If we can do that to an ACC team, then I’m happy with that. And our lads should be pleased with that,’ he added.

After falling behind 1-0 on a Boston College goal just four minutes into the game, the Stags struggled to gain possession of the ball. The Eagles tightened their defense and were able to control the game’s pace.

The Eagles again scored early this time in the second half, when Jeremiah Gallington took a pass from Conor Fitzpatrick 12 yards away from the goal and moved in on the net, putting a shot past the sprawling Fairfield goalkeeper Justin Burse.

‘We needed to meet them higher at the field. Our starting position as defenders needed to be tighter on the ball,’ said Rees. ‘I thought that we needed to be collectively more assertive.’

The Stags had multiple chances to score and nearly did when Burridge struck a header into the right corner of the net for an apparent goal with 25:01 remaining in the game.

‘The official said that I climbed up above the defender. But, at the time, I was away from the defender,’ said Burridge. ‘I don’t know why he called that. When I asked the official, he said that I held them. I don’t know.’

As Burridge charged on the net with just over nine minutes remaining, the Eagles goalkeeper Chris Brown rushed out and took him out and Burridge was awarded a penalty shot, which he converted on.

‘I couldn’t really do anything, the goalie came so far out and smashed into me. He’s a 200-pound guy, you know,’ said Burridge.

Despite the improvements the Stags have made with a team hurt by both injuries and inexperience, it is impossible to ignore the fact that Fairfield is off to a 3-5 start. It is the Stags worst start since 2003, when they began the season 3-5-1 en route to a 7-8-2 record.

But the MAAC season provides the Stags an opportunity to begin the season again. They will be without both starting center backs on defense, Jack Cleverley and Tom Clements, who broke his ribs against Iona two weeks ago and is expected to miss at least two more weeks.

After the Stags loss to the Eagles, Rees said that he was pleased by the effort of the players who stepped up as replacmenents.

‘I think we got to see three non-regular starters stand up and be counted tonight,’ Rees said.’ ‘It gives us some options come the MAAC. We played tonight without our two central defenders, and one of them is our captain. I thought that [senior Mike] Lentine and [junior David] Piedrahita led the team with dignity and ambition.’

‘Character is going to dictate the success of this team, like any other team. There was a lot of positive character straits being demonstrated tonight,’ he added.

Fairfield will face the tough task of climbing back to the top of the MAAC, where the Stags have sat for the past three seasons.

After a loss at Iona, Fairfield is 0-1 in conference, while No. 17 Loyola and Siena share first-place with 2-0 records.

But after their solid performance over Boston College, the Stags are brimming with confidence heading into the next eight games of the conference schedule.

‘The guy’s just showed so much heart, grit, and determination. We had a goal disallowed in the second half. I’m proud of the lads, we did fantastic,’ said Burridge, a transfer from South Carolina Upstate who has two goals this season. ‘If we carry this performance over to the MAAC games, I don’t see it being a problem at all for us to be a contender in the MAAC.’

‘Loyola is doing really well. But tonight, you could’ve put Real Madrid out there in our second half performance and we would’ve given them a good game.’

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