Andy Copelan and the Fairfield Stags used a dominant performance against Hobart to move into the national spotlight and the No. 20 ranking in the country. (Peter Caty/The Mirror)


That’s probably the best way to describe head coach Andy Copelan and his goalkeeper, senior Joe Marra, as they sat down in the depths of the Walsh Athletic Center and finally got a chance to exhale in the aftermath of the Stags’ dominant 14-5 victory against Hobart, the team’s third consecutive win and by far its most impressive outing of the season.

Their fatigue, however, was more than just the product of a job well done. It’s the result of the work of two key figures of a team just beginning to surface as one of the nation’s up-and-coming programs.

The lacrosse scene took notice, as the Stags ranked No. 20 in the most recent InsideLacrosse Media Poll.

“Anytime you can get a 14-5 victory, it’s a pretty solid win,” Copelan said. “I thought playing good offense really lent itself to playing good defense.”

Offensively, the Stags looked every bit the team that upset Notre Dame, which was ranked third nationally at the time, and Ohio State, one of the stronger teams in the ECAC in recent memory. They also looked extremely balanced – in addition to from sophomore attackman John Snellman’s three-goal effort, eleven other offensive players tallied a point in the victory.

Not bad, considering that the Stags were facing Hobart goalkeeper Max Silberlicht, a preseason All-American and candidate for the Tewaaraton Trophy, awarded to the best player in the nation. The Statesmen captain was pulled in the second period after allowing his seventh goal just days after he tallied 23-saves against No. 2 Syracuse.

Still, while offense helped the Stags upended Sliberlicht and Hobart to extend their winning streak, the bigger trend that has emerged from Fairfield’s recent string of success is easy to see: defense and discipline.
Defensively, the Stags limited an offense that had just scored eight goals in an overtime loss to the Orange to just five. Fairfield dominated ground balls, 42-26, much of which came as a result of junior defenseman Sean Bannon’s strong play. Bannon, who was named the ECAC Defensive Player of the Week, totalled ten ground balls in two games this week.

Bannon’s compliments, junior Brendan McTague and sophomore Drew Palmer, also had strong weeks, as evident in the fact that the team only allowed 13 goals this week, both of which came against two of the stronger programs in the country.

Still, much of the team’s defensive success all comes back to Marra.

“Defensively, we pitched a shutout in the first half, and that’s largely due to this guy sitting right next to me,” Copelan said as he turned toward Marra after the game. ”

For the senior, it was more than just another impressive outing in his renaissance season. Exactly two weeks from the day of his career-high 17-save effort against the Irish and All-American goalkeeper Scott Rodgers, the senior again outplayed one of the nation’s best in Silberlicht.

“Joe’s has been fantastic,” Copelan said. “I’m certainly not trying to jinx him, but right now Joe Marra is having an All-American year.”

However, with an upcoming showdown against ECAC rival Loyola (Md.) on the horizon and a trip to College Park to play Maryland, Coplean’s former employer, coming later in the month, the Stags know that the greatest challenges still lie ahead.

“The MO with Fairfield in the past has been strong starts and not so strong finishes,” Copelan said. “That’s something that we’re definitely aware of and working to change this season.”

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