Sophomore TJ Neubauer tallied four goals as the Stags (8-2) – winners of six straight – defeated the Bucknell Bison (5-6), head coach Andy Copelan’s alma mater. Copelan, a 2003 graduate, was a four-year starter at midfield, earning all-conference honors his senior year. He helped lead them to four consecutive Patriot League titles and the program’s first ever National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament bid in 2001.
“I’m proud of our guys, to have a quick turnaround against a team that was ranked in the preseason top 10,” Copelan said. “And [Bucknell] Coach Fedorjaka and I are pretty friendly. He’s a wonderful man and a great coach. He had quite an influence on my life, so I think the world of him.”
The Stag offense got off to an oddly sluggish start. Sophomore Sean Doyle found the back of the net first for Bucknell at the 12:37 mark. It would be nearly four more minutes before the offense would show any life for the Stags. Junior Colin McLinden got on the board first, netting the first Fairfield goal of the game at 8:48. Freshman Jake Knostman followed suit, putting the Stags up 2-1 with 7:21 on the clock. Doyle would fire another one past Fairfield goalkeeper Jack Murphy ’15 shortly after, tying the game at 2-2. This score would remain for the rest of the quarter.
The Bison would strike first again in the second quarter, with Brock Ghelfi’s ’16 sidearm shot sneaking past Murphy. Neubauer would score his first goal of the game barely over a minute later to pull the Stags back 3-3 at the 12:26 mark. Senior Peter Burke would sneak an almost identical low shot past Murphy to push the lead back to 4-3 for the Bison. Neither offense could get much going for the remainder of the half, except for Neubauer’s second goal of the game with 1:15 left to play to level the game yet again at four goals apiece.
“They’re a really strong riding team so we had to account for that,” Copelan said of the slow opening quarters. “We kind of got away from who we have been. As the game wore on, I thought we managed that very well.”
The Stags would finally strike first in the third period. Freshman Dave Fleming scored three and a half minutes in to put Fairfield up 5-4. Another goalless stretch would pass before Tom Black ’14 fired home another low shot for the Bison with 6:07 on the clock to pull even at 5-5. This was as close as Bucknell would get. Junior Drew Federico scored with 35 seconds left, opening the floodgates for a huge Stags fourth quarter.
“We just talked about playing our game, focusing on ourselves, playing unselfishly,” Neubauer said. “Shots just opened up, Colin [McLinden] was able to find a lot of people. It all ended up working out for us.”
This rang true, as Fairfield’s offense suddenly got red hot. Senior Eric Warden would finally get on the board at the 12:18 mark. Neubauer would score two more back-to-back goals of his own in the following minutes. Just like that, the Stags found themselves in control with a 9-5 lead, and Bucknell had no answer.
Fleming delivered the dagger with 4:58 to play to put Fairfield up 10-5. Apart from a consolation goal with 20 seconds to play, the Stags would comfortably see out the remainder of this contest, coming away with a 10-6 victory.
The Bison came into this contest tallying only 83 goals in ten games this season, good for a near dead last ranking in all of Division I. In turn, offensive efficiency had to be Fairfield’s focus, as Bucknell outshot the Stags an impressive 43-27.
This marked the last game to be played at Alumni Field, as construction of Rafferty Stadium is set to begin on the same site on April 7. The new home of Stags lacrosse is scheduled for opening by the beginning of the 2015 season.
Fairfield hits the road for their next three games, starting with another Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference showdown at the University of Michigan.
“We have our hands full,” Copelan said. “We get to play in the Big House after their spring football game. We have to make sure that we’re just as motivated to go 2-0 in the conference.”
The Stags return home next on April 26 for their regular season finale against Ohio State.
Women’s lacrosse by Jesse Erickson
Rain, shine or even snow, Fairfield’s women’s lacrosse team hasn’t let the weather slow them down. Despite the rain on Saturday afternoon, the Stags took control of the field against the Niagara Purple Eagles.
After coming off a close victory against Sacred Heart University on March 26, the team knew they had to strengthen their game in order to prove their upcoming dominance in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play.
“We were very well prepared for Niagara because we had a tough game against Sacred Heart (14-10),” said captain Melanie Raso ‘14. “We knew that Niagara was scrappy and they were better than they had been so we all went out there and played as a team.”
Last season, the Stags defeated Niagara 18-7. But, with new players to the field and more determination, Fairfield was ready to crush the Purple Eagles. Their willingness to do so was clear in the first couple minutes of the game.
Starting off the first half strong, Fairfield’s Julieanne Mascera ‘16 netted the first goal for the team just two minutes into the game. Following the momentum of Mascera, Fairfield put five more goals onto the board before Niagara was able to get past Fairfield’s defensive line, led by Meghan Reda ‘15. Despite being ahead by five goals, the Stags continued to pressure Niagara. Freshman Alex Fehmel put two goals on the board for the Stags in the remainder of the first half, along with Riley Hellstein ’17, Jenna Slowey ‘14 and Raso. Fairfield outshot Niagara by 15 goals, won 10 of the 16 draw controls and fought for 14 ground balls, while Niagara only managed to take away five ground balls from the Stags.
After being shut down by Fairfield in the first half, Niagara attempted to win back a lead in the second half with Fairfield ahead 12-3. However, it would be Fairfield’s Fehmel assisted by Colleen Reynolds ‘16 who would score the first goal of the second half. The Purple Eagles fired back with two goals making the score 13-5, but it was one of the last strides Niagara would make to catch up to tighten the score before the end of the game. The Purple Eagles continued to pressure offensively, winning eight of the 12 draw controls. But, the Stags prevailed and scored another five goals before the end of the game, making the final score of the matchup 19-7.
“We felt really good about this win because it’s the most we’ve ever scored as an attack and we were able to get a bunch of different people in so we were able to see how everyone played together,” said Raso. “And this is one of the first games that we have played from start to finish.”
Raso, captain of the team and one of the top players in the offensive league who has received MAAC honors multiple times, has recently been extremely close to breaking several program records, particularly the record number for draw controls. Against Niagara, Raso won her 141st draw control, tying the program record. Although she has her own accomplishments, she only spoke of the accomplishments her teammates have already been making in the season, especially those of freshman rookie Hellstein.
“She came in strong once our captain Addie Reilly went down because of injury and she has showed herself between the draws, between the scoring, between everything we need her to do on the field,” said Raso. “I think that shows that she has brought a lot of momentum onto the field and it shows that you can come in as a freshman and do such a good job on the field.”
Just this week, Hellstein, who plays attack, was named this week’s MAAC’s Rookie of the Week. She scored three goals for the Stags in the matchup against Niagara. Raso, along with the rest of the team, hopes that Hellstein’s prominence in the league continues to grow.
Although picked to place third in the league according to a MAAC poll, the Stags are currently seated in first place since MAAC has started. Like always, the team will continue to practice to get closer to their ultimate goal: winning the tournament. But until then, now 6-3, the Stags will be traveling to Iona to take on the Gaels on Wednesday, April 2.