They expected more.

They expected a longer season, one that would be highlighted by plenty of emotional victories and cheers from the “Red Sea.”

They looked forward to a glorious run for a title led by the talented senior class, perhaps the best in school history.

Most importantly, they expected a postseason.

Unfortunately, what the Fairfield men’s lacrosse team got in the end was a senior day finale with St. John’s University, a last chance to right the wrongs. They end the season at an even 6-6 record, a reality that would have seemed impossible in mid-March.

“Our mindset [going in] was we have to win,” said senior goaltender Mike Kruger. “We treated it like a playoff game.”

Their all-or-nothing approach paid off, as they took down the Red Storm, 13-6.

The victory brought them back to .500 on the season and improved their ECAC record 2-5.

The playoff mentality was a positive force from the opening face-off, as the energetic Stags jumped out to a quick 9-0 lead, while also holding St. John’s scoreless for the first half of play.

One of the goals included a score from senior midfielder Greg Downing at 9:39 in the first quarter.

It was Downing’s 100th career goal in his Fairfield career.

He is only the fourth player in school history to score 100 goals.

His two-goal performance places him at fourth place all time at 101 goals.

Another senior attackman, Mike Bocklet, added to an already impressive season, finishing the game with two goals and an assist.

He led the team this season with 26 goals, tying his career-high from the 2005 season.

Kruger played fantastic in net, recording 17 saves on 25 shots on goal, a season-high for the senior.

“I felt we played pretty well,” said Kruger. “Offensively and defensively, we played well.”

Like the rest of the season, the game was not easy for Fairfield, even in a winning effort.

St. John’s had one final streak left in them, as midfielder Tom Michaelsen scored the first two goals of the second half in just 48 seconds to give the Red Storm newfound hope.

The swing continued, as St. John’s would score the next five goals of the contest, cutting the lead to just four goals.

On this day, however, Fairfield would not be denied.

Unlike so many one-goal losses and games that featured unbelievable streaks from the opposition, the Stags answered back, tacking on another four to keep a comfortable lead for good.

While the season’s final result was not what the team had in mind, the final game was a strong showing that erased some of the pain.

“It was a great effort by our guys. There were a couple of things we could’ve done better, but that’s the case in any game, whether you win or lose,” said head coach Ted Spencer.

Spencer also said: “I’m proud of my kids, they worked hard. They bounced back from a real tough situation.”

That situation was a devastating six-game losing streak, one that was especially painful considering the team began the season with a 5-0 record.

As if the record wasn’t enough, the Stags’ astounding start at the onset of the season placed them at 12th in the USILA national rankings.

From that point on the season changed.

Tough competition in the ECAC’s elite, including nationally ranked Georgetown and Loyola, as well as a difficult road trip that included a visit to imposing Hobart, would stifle the Stags.

The hard part of the losing streak was the team’s inability to locate an area of weakness.

Aside from a 19-2 rout from Loyola (Md.), the team was competitive in every game, losing three games by three goals or less.

“A couple of bounces the other way and we could’ve had some different outcomes,” said Downing. “A couple of mistakes here and there along the way, but that happens in every game.”

Regardless, the team refused to admit that it was a lost season, stressing the importance of ending the season with a win.

“As seniors, you’re always going to remember your last game,” said Kruger.

The Stags will remember it, their lasting memory of a victory at Alumni Field that eased the pain of failing to live up to unreasonably high expectations, if only for a few brief moments.

Still, the season ends with a sad feeling of the uncertainty of what might have been.

One thing remains: as great as it was, it was almost more.

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