Ripe with talent from top to bottom, the 2016 edition of the Stags men’s lacrosse team looked like they had a great chance to capture a Colonial Athletic Association Championship and earn their first National Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament bid in the Andy Copelan era at Fairfield.

Throughout a rollercoaster season that culminated in a 9-8 record, three players in particular lead the way for the Stags. Freshman attackman Colin Burke, midfielder T.J. Neubauer ’16 and goalie Tyler Behring ’17 all put forth standout campaigns as they garnered national recognition.

Burke would be named Co-CAA Player of the Year, the only freshman in the history of the CAA to win the award, after lighting up defenses with a league-high 46 goals and 17 assists. He led the nation in goals by a freshman and ended the year as the No.2 ranked freshman in the country by Inside Lacrosse.

Neubauer repeated as a First Team All-New England Selection for the third straight year, tallying 31 goals and three assists this spring. He ranks third all time in Stags history with 109 goals in his career. Additionally, before his senior season began he was taken with the 34th pick in the Major League Collegiate Lacrosse Draft by the Rochester Rattlers.

Like Burke and Neubauer, Behring also collected First Team All-CAA laurels this year with 199 saves at .572 percent clip. His standout outing against UMass in which he stopped 19 shots in an 8-6 Stag win, awarded him United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association Defensive Player of the Week, as well as StringKing Player of the Week by Inside Lacrosse.

The incredible efforts put forth by the three aforementioned players, the entire team and the coaching staff yielded Fairfield the CAA regular season crown after the Stags went 4-1 in league play. After losing their first three games of the season, the squad went 9-5 over its last 14 contests, including winning four out of their last five matchups heading into CAA Tournament play.

As May rolled around, the Stags looked to be playing their best ball at just the right time. After being given the second-seed in the tournament, Fairfield stymied the third-seed Hofstra Pride 11-8 in the semifinals to set up a championship game matchup with the nationally ranked Towson Tigers. From the get-go, Towson thwarted Fairfield’s normally potent offense, winning the game 4-2 and stealing the NCAA bid the Stags coveted.

If it made Fairfield fans feel any better, Towson won two games in the NCAA Tournament before bowing out to the Loyola Greyhounds in the quarterfinals. However, in the end it seems as though it was simply not meant to be for the Stags this spring. Although an immensely talented group of players meshed so well throughout the year, the group once again fell short of their goal to play any further in May.

Look out for the Stags to be better than ever next season as Burke and Behring return to headline yet another gifted group of Stags to take the field. We will see if Coach Copelan’s ninth season is the charm and brings Fairfield their first NCAA Tournament nod since 2007.

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