Two first-half goals for the Stags were enough to hold on for a 2-1 win over the Holy Cross Crusaders at Lessing Field on Monday.

Fairfield wasted no time, striking first off of a long Karolyn Collins ’16 free kick that found its way to the head of Cassidy Boegel ’17 inside the box. Boegel fired a shot into the left side of the net to give the Stags a 1-0 lead just one and a half minutes in.

“Holy Cross has two young goalkeepers,” Fairfield head coach Jim O’Brien said. “They graduated a real top-level keeper last year. [Collins] played that ball right into the box and the keeper was a little bit shy coming off the line. We told the girls to test her, and they did.”

This set the tone for the Stag offense, who controlled the pace and possession for the majority of the first half. They would create another quality chance at the 26:30 mark with Boegel again cutting inside, but having her shot blocked. The resulting scramble in front of the net landed on the head of midfielder Sydney Arestivo ’17, who sent home Fairfield’s second goal of the game for a 2-0 lead.

The Crusaders had done a good job of  keeping up with Fairfield’s pace up to this point, which paid off with just a few minutes to play in the first half.

Off of Holy Cross’s second corner kick of the game, the ball came to midfielder Emily George who found freshman forward Andj Seslija on the other side of the box. Seslija narrowly put home her shot which Fairfield just barely failed to clear off the goal line.

The Crusaders would threaten again with just 30 seconds to go in the half. A booming shot from Seslija from 25 yards out arced just out of reach of the Stags’ goalkeeper Jenna Pike ’18 and off the crossbar.

Fairfield would take their 2-1 lead into halftime. The Stags narrowly outshot the Crusaders 12-1, while Pike made three saves. Fairfield had a well-rounded attack in the first half with five different players registering shots. Forward Jenny Jacobs ’19 was the most active with four shots, followed by Boegel with three.

“We conceded another late goal, a bit of a soft one,” O’Brien added. “It shifted some momentum their way, but we handled it pretty well. We managed to grit it out.”

Both teams locked down in the second half, with neither side threatening the net for long stretches. A shot on goal was not registered until the 31:30 mark. The game turned much more physical, with both sides eventually combining for 30 total fouls by the time the final whistle came.

“We do have to match other teams in terms of the physicality,” said O’Brien. “We need battlers. All these teams talk to each other, the scouting reports all say that Fairfield doesn’t like a physical game, so we have to be ready.”

Holy Cross tried to ride that momentum of their late first-half goal — racking up seven shots in the last 45 minutes compared to Fairfield’s two — but could not find the back of net. With the help of the defense and Pike’s five total saves, the Stags would hold on for a 2-1 victory.

Fairfield improves to 3-5 while Holy Cross falls to 2-3-1. O’Brien’s side now has a 10-0-2 record against the Crusaders since 1993. The Stags open conference play on Saturday, Sept, 19, hosting Niagara University at Lessing Field at 1 p.m., and must again rely on a young, but well-rounded squad to lead the way.

“We’ll look to our upperclassmen as well,” O’Brien said. “Karolyn Collins has stepped up really well at center back for us. Cassidy [Boegel] pitched in her first goal of the year today. Sydney [Arestivo] was phenomenal today. Brenna Brown ‘17, who was out basically half of last season, is really starting to find her form again, so they’ll all be crucial to our success.”

 

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