Photo contributed by Sports Information Desk
By Patrick Kiernan
Saturday vs. Stony Brook
The 19th-ranked Fairfield men’s lacrosse team overcame a second-half Stony Brook University comeback to defeat the Seawolves 15-13 on Saturday. Sophomore TJ Neubauer led the Stags with a career-high five goals to pace his team to victory. He also added an assist for a career-high six points and tied a career-high with four ground balls.
The Stags and the Seawolves met for the first time since the 2012 season when Fairfield posted a 13-10 win on Alumni Field. Prior to that, their last meeting was in 2002 with the Stags posting a 10-9 victory. Now, the Stags won their third straight meeting against the Seawolves and hold a 4-2 record on the season.
“It’s nice to be 4-2. Right now, we’re two weeks away from conference play,” said Head Coach Andy Copelan. “Now, we’ve got a big game here on Tuesday against University of Massachusetts, and I feel like it’s exactly what we need right now.”
The Stags got off to a quick start in the game versus Stony Brook with goals from Tristan Sperry ’15 and Colin McLinden ’15 to get a 2-0 lead in just seven minutes.
The first goal was let up with about a minute left in the first quarter, but Fairfield scored again to end the quarter with a 3-1 lead.
In the second quarter, seven Fairfield goals were scored while just three Stony Brook goals were allowed to give the Stags a 10-4 lead at the end of the half. Fairfield’s offense was firing on all cylinders in the second quarter, which led them to secure a solid lead going into halftime.
“We just went to our original game plan,” said Neubauer about the strong first half scoring. “Everyone was getting goals and it wasn’t an individual performance. It was a team effort.”
In the second half, however, Fairfield saw its lead slowly trim away. Stony Brook dominated the game in this half and tested goalkeeper Jack Murphy ’14.
In the third quarter, the Seawolves scored five goals, while Fairfield only scored three. Stony Brook also won eight of nine faceoffs. At the end of this quarter, Fairfield led just 13-9.
The scoring for Stony Brook did not stop in the fourth quarter as they retained momentum from the third quarter.
The Seawolves scored another four goals in the first six minutes to trim the Fairfield lead to just one point at 13-12. The Stags called a timeout at that point to recollect.
“I think we just came out slow,” said Neubauer. “We weren’t getting ground balls but in the timeout, we came together and realized that we had to get ground balls in order to win and that’s what we did.”
“We just played too little offense and they played too much defense,” said Coach Copelan about the second half surge by Stony Brook. “We played into their strength which is their offensive personnel and to their credit, they made us pay for it.”
That timeout stopped the momentum for the Seawolves and put it back in Fairfield’s favor. Neubauer scored the next two goals for the Stags to give them a 15-12 lead with just 1:49 remaining in the game. Fairfield gave up one goal in that amount of time to solidify a 15-13 victory over the Stony Brook Seawolves.
“I credit TJ Neubauer a lot. He’s an animal,” said Coach Copelan about the momentum shift. “He has proven to be one of the guys, in very critical situations, to just want the ball in his stick and to be out there to make plays for our team.”
In this game, Dave Fleming ’17 posted his first career hat trick along with an assist. McLinden had two goals and two assists, while Sperry tallied two goals and an assist.
Junior Drew Federico had a pair of goals and Murphy made a season-high 15 saves for the Stags. Stony Brook held a 31-30 advantage in ground balls, including 20 in the second half. The Seawolves won 20 of 32 faceoffs as well.
The Fairfield men’s lacrosse team will test their 4-2 record on Tuesday, March 18, when Massachusetts visits Alumni Field. The Stags close out the month on the road, going to Holy Cross on March 22 and Bellarmine on March 29 for their Eastern College Athletic Conference Lacrosse League opener.
By Travis Day
Monday vs. UMass
Another ranked opponent was upset and sent packing from Alumni Field as no. 19 Fairfield, winners of three straight games, upended no. 11 University of Massachusetts Amherst 11-5. Fueled by stout defense and stellar play from goalie Jack Murphy ’14, the Stags defeated the Minutemen for only the second time in history, while also snapping their two-game win streak.
Fairfield seized control early, with Tristan Sperry ’15 burying back-to-back goals at the 12:35 and 12:00 marks to build a 2-0 lead. UMass would stick to their typical up-tempo style of play, but were stonewalled repeatedly by the Stag defense and Murphy between the posts.
Freshman Dave Fleming and Drew Federico ’15 would net goals of their own in the second quarter to push the lead to 4-0. The Minutemen finally got on the board with a goal from Nick Mariano ‘17 with 4:35 left in the half. Junior Colin McLinden answered right back just over a minute later to put the Stags up 5-1. UMass Head Coach Greg Cannella would call a timeout for UMass with just over ten seconds left. It paid off, as Connor Mooney ‘14 would bury a shot in the bottom left corner with eight seconds to play.
Fairfield would take the 5-2 lead into halftime. Accuracy was key, as the Stags only narrowly outshot UMass 13-12. UMass dominated possession and the faceoff circle, winning seven of nine, while forcing eight turnovers.
Senior Eric Warden would score his 16th goal of the season to put the Stags up 6-2 at the 12:48 mark. The Minutemen began to hit their offensive stride, but each goal was promptly answered for. Mariano would pull one back for UMass at 11:18 before McLinden found Warden in front of goal, who netted another goal with 9:44 on the clock. UMass had a one-minute man advantage after Bryan Barry ’15 was sent to the sideline for a cross-checking penalty. Freshman Minuteman Jeff George found the back of the net for them 40 seconds later. Fairfield answered back yet again, with Federico sneaking a sidearm shot into the left corner.
UMass came out with a sense of urgency in the fourth quarter, forcing the Stags to lock down even more on defense. Mooney would score again on a man advantage for the Minutemen at the 9:45.
This would pull the score to 8-5, but that was as close as the Minutemen would get. The sped-up play from UMass would cost them three unanswered goals, including the empty netter from McLinden with 1:26 on the clock to secure the 11-5 win for the Stags.
Fairfield’s overall record improves to 5-2 (2-7 against UMass), as the Minutemen’s record falls to 6-2.
“I’m proud of our guys,” coach Andy Copelan said. “We set a new bar after today’s performance. We prepared the right way and the guys executed the game plan perfectly. The challenge is just to continue to improve.”
Murphy’s 10-save performance in goal was the backbone of the defense.
“We had a game plan to kind of give them the outside shots that we were looking for,” Copelan said. “Today I was able to put it all together. We proved to ourselves that we can play at a higher level. We have to enjoy today, but we come back tomorrow and have to look forward.”
Fairfield goes on the road against Holy Cross on March 22 before beginning conference play at Bellarmine on March 29. The Stags return home to host Copelan’s alma mater Bucknell on April 1.