After falling to Monmouth in the MAAC Championship last fall, Fairfield’s women’s soccer team is looking to put the past behind them, move forward and become the top team in the MAAC league for the upcoming season.

Although the team lost by two in the final game, the team, overall, had an extremely successful season. Last season, the team ended the season 12-7-2, posting an undefeated slate on Lessing Field for the first time in Stag history. Three members of the team, Nikki Stanton ‘13, Megan O’Brien ‘15 and Ashley Small ‘15 were named to the All-Tournament team last season and Emma Pichel ‘15, despite injury, was named the MAAC Defensive Player of the Year.

Even further, the Stags received a variety of All-MAAC recognitions and for the 13th year in a row, the team was awarded the Team Academic Award by the National Soccer Coaches of America Association.

But like any other sport, the season came to an end and five vital athletes were retired from the team, including graduate student Nikki Stanton who had been redshirted her freshman year at Fairfield after sustaining a knee injury that kept her sidelined that whole season.

Stanton, midfielder, captained the team for two years and now, in this upcoming season, the Stags have to adjust to play without their leader.

Preparing for the season without their seniors, the Stags trained both on and off the field for the 2014 season. Led by their 2014 captains, Small and Michelle Kowalski ‘15, the team took on several different out-of-league teams.

Although the team used the spring off-season to get in shape and learn to work without the graduated seniors, the team looks forward to welcoming eight new rookies to the team in the upcoming 2014 fall season.

According to a press release on FairfieldStags.com, Coach Jim O’Brien is very excited about the talent that the rookies will be bringing to the field.

“This recruiting class that will join us in August is one of impressive depth and versatility,” O’Brien said. “Most of the outfield players have shown the ability to play a variety of places on the pitch and the goalkeeper is expected to push for the starting job.”The rookies will look to their senior teammates for guidance this season, especially from their captains who have brought extreme success to the team in the past.

Midfielder Kowalski has started 21 games during her time with the team. A member of the MAAC Academic team, she is expected to guide her team both on and off the field.

During her third season with the team, Small led the team with 13 goals and 27 combined points for the team. Her performance on the field has led her to receive a number of MAAC nominations. Next season, her offensive play is expected to continue bringing the team success.

The team will return to Fairfield on August 7 for pre-season training before they take on their first MAAC opponent, Rider, on September 27. As in the past, the team’s main goal is to be crowned MAAC champions.

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