Addie Reilly and Melanie Raso scored three goals apiece, but their efforts would not be enough, as James Madison pulled away to defeat the Stags 15-9 at Alumni Field on Sunday.

The game started poorly for the Stags, as they found themselves in an early 5-0 hole less than ten minutes into the game. Fairfield finally got on the board about two minutes later with a goal by Chloe Mangan with over eighteen minutes left to play in the first half.

The initial James Madison onslaught was not over however, as it extended the lead to 7-1, which would end up being its largest lead of the game. Fairfield answered with quick goals by Mangan, Amanda Best and Addie Reilly, pulling the Stags within three at 7-4. It appeared that the Stags had taken another step towards completing the comeback when they scored again right before half, but the goal was waved off by the officials due to a penalty on Fairfield.

When asked why he thought the team played so poorly at the start of the game, head coach Mike Waldvogel pinned it on the players being “overanxious.”

“We just had [unforced] turnovers. We fell a couple times, we threw the ball where we shouldn’t have, we dropped it in the beginning of the game,” said Waldvogel. “It was just nerves I think. Once we relaxed everything was fine. It was just in the beginning of the game against a top ranked team.”

The Stags committed eleven turnovers for the game, seven of which came in the first half.

“It’s the second time we’ve had that happen,” said Waldvogel, referring to the team’s previous game against Hofstra, where they fell behind early and were forced to mount a comeback. “We’ve got to be more focused at the beginning of the game.”

Coming out of halftime, the Dukes’ Monica Zabel scored a quick goal, but the Stags answered yet again with a pair of goals by Reilly and Raso to bring the lead back down to two.

After James Madison extended the lead back to four with under 20 minutes left to play, Reilly and Raso responded again to score twice within two minutes of each other, bringing Fairfield back within two at 10-8.

This would be as close as the Stags would get however, as James Madison scored three straight goals and outscored Fairfield 5-1 in the last 14 minutes, to cement the 15-9 victory.

Coach Waldvogel showed mixed feelings about the loss. “I’m happy with the effort we put in. I’m not happy being down early in the game, but I think that’s a young team,” said Waldvogel. “We have no seniors starting on offense…it is a fairly young team and I think a lot of players are still learning to play their role.”

Despite tying the Dukes in groundballs with 15, Fairfield was outshot by James Madison 28-17 for the game, including a 15-7 difference in the first half.

The coach also pointed to how the team struggled when faced with man-down situations. “I think the biggest thing that affects us is when we get yellow carded, going a man down. Defense has to play extra hard … [it] puts a lot more pressure on the defense and puts a lot more energy into the game for the defense.”

Five Stags had time spent in the penalty box, all in the second half. With 20 minutes remaining, both Courtney Chmil and Melanie Raso were forced to the penalty box, putting the Stags down two players at once.

Women’s lacrosse recently adopted rules similar to men’s lacrosse, where players are put in the penalty box after being penalized. Before the rule change, women’s teams were always at even strength, even after penalties.

Going forward, Waldvogel believes games like this will be good experiences for the team later in the season.

“Anytime you play a quality team like this, you learn a lot of things. I think we know [that] we can play with these [top tier] teams,” said Waldvogel. “When we play teams that are not as good as this, we should dominate and come out with that fire in our eyes.”

Thanks in part to her three goal effort in Sunday’s game, sophomore  attack Addie Reilly is now among MAAC leaders in multiple categories. She is second in the league in goals per game, and third in  points per game.

The next game for the Stags is March 7, when they go on the road to battle cross-town rival Sacred Heart.

The next home game for Fairfield is March 21 against Lehigh.

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