Head coach Andy Copelan could not have asked for a better three-game stretch from Tyler Behring ’17. In his first three career starts, Behring combined for 38 saves and 15 ground balls. Behring couldn’t have asked for a better run himself, earning “Inside Lacrosse” Sector Player of the Week, Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Week and National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I Defensive Player of the Week all together after his first two starts. In a position drastically changed by the graduation of Boston Cannons draftee Jack Murphy ’14 and the later injury to Brad Nordstrom ‘18, Behring has stepped up and quelled any doubts to the Stags’ depth in net.
“We have a great connection with all of the guys on the team,” said Behring. “We have trust in everyone. One guy goes down, and we’re ready for the next guy.”
Behring made his first career start in an away matchup with University of Massachusetts Lowell on Tuesday, March 17, following a win versus Colgate University that had snapped a three-game stretch of one-goal losses for the Stags. On the heels of an 11-goal performance from the Fairfield offense where nine different players found the back of the net, Behring registered a six-save and six-ground ball game of his own in the 11-5 win.
A bigger challenge awaited him later in the same week, as Fairfield played host to then #20 Villanova University. Fairfield emphatically shut down the high-powered Wildcat offense, which was averaging 10.29 goals per game. On the shoulders of a 16-save outing for Behring, the stout defense from the Stags kept Villanova off of the scoreboard for 40 straight minutes, including the entire second and third periods.
“It was pretty nerve wracking to just be thrown in there, but it was obviously very exciting,” Behring said. “I feel like I was ready to take that step, and my teammates trust me to help them lead the way.”
In these first two starts, Behring registered a 3.56 goals against average to go along with an impressive .759 save percentage, good enough to get the attention of “Inside Lacrosse,” the CAA and the NCAA for his trio of weekly accolades.
This was no flash in the pan, as Behring and the Stags headed to Philadelphia on Saturday, March 28 to take the defending CAA champions Drexel University. In their first conference game of the season, Fairfield had to grind out a 7-4 victory, helped along by Behring’s 16 saves, matching his career-best against Villanova.
Fairfield supporters, and no doubt Andy Copelan, feel that the drought of NCAA tournament appearances has to come to an end sooner rather than later. The Stags have not made an appearance since the 2005 campaign. Since Copelan’s arrival in 2009, the Stags have posted winning records in both overall and conference play in all but the 2011 season (8-8, 3-3 ECAC). The 2013 Eastern College Athletic Conference first round game against #3 Denver saw Fairfield drop a heartbreaking 10-8 decision, after having pulled out a 10-9 win just 12 days prior when Denver was ranked number one nationally. The 2014 season saw them inch closer, reaching the championship game but ultimately falling short with another narrow 9-8 loss to Air Force.
“We’re not looking too far down the road, but focusing on the CAA and winning that means we make it back to the tournament,” Behring said of the team’s postseason aspirations. “So that’s our only goal right now.”
In a season where all four losses have come by one-goal margins, the Stags could just as easily be standing on an undefeated record. Staying consistent and putting up complete games on offense, on defense and in goal will prove to be vital to Fairfield’s success going forward as they look to return to the NCAA tournament for the first time in a decade.
“We want to stay consistent and keep stringing together wins,” Behring said. “Building on that, we hope to be the number one team in the league going into the conference tournament, and be able to make a run at NCAAs.”