The Fairfield University women’s soccer team has officially begun their race to the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championship title, with one win under their belt in the postseason (9-6-4 overall, 5-4-1 MAAC). In a Halloween matinée against Niagara University (13-4-1 overall, 7-3-0 MAAC), the Stags fought hard to make it through the MAAC Quarterfinal game on top. At the very last minute, the Stags tied the score at one point, forcing the game to be decided in a penalty shootout. Fairfield shocked everyone and came out on top to advance to the MAAC Semifinals.

The Stags had played the Purple Eagles just once this season, earlier in October, and they lost 3-2. In the first period of play, things were rather quiet. Fairfield out-shot Niagara 7-5, however, neither team managed to put the ball in the net. Felicia Grufman, of the opposing team, made two saves in the first half but acted as a wall against Fairfield. 

Following halftime, Niagara seemed to have regrouped, applying more pressure on Fairfield’s defense. They tallied 11 shots, forcing Gena Pike ‘23 to make four saves in the 45 minute stretch. In the seventy-fourth minute of regulation time, the Purple Eagles caught the Stags off guard, sneaking in a goal to give them the upper hand. 

Though this goal could have been detrimental for the Stags, they displayed an immense amount of perseverance, taking advantage of every second they had on the field. A ball from Stephanie Tsangaris ‘22 ricocheted off of the arm of a defensive player on the opposing team, drawing a penalty kick for the Stags that would keep them in the game. Graduate student Gabby Diodati stepped up and miraculously tied the game 1-1 with just three seconds left. This would be her seventh goal of the season, putting her in sixth place in terms of goal-scoring in the MAAC.

The fight wasn’t over yet, as although the Stags pulled themselves to level ground, they now had to fend off the Purple Hawks in overtime. The first overtime was silent, as neither team registered any shots, and neither goaltender was forced to make any saves. Fairfield, however, was handed out three fouls all in the last half of the ten-minute bonus period. This is indicative of the desperation in the air for both teams to prevail. The second overtime began, marking the start of another extra period. It droned on agonizingly for all parties involved, and each goalie made saves to keep the game at a stalemate before heading into a shootout. 

In the shootout, Fairfield showed up to compete in a way that they hadn’t all afternoon. Hanley Courter ‘22, Diodati, Reagan Klarmann ‘25, and Maddie Kiely ‘24 sealed the deal in one-after-the-other successful penalty kicks. Though Niagara made four shots, Pike was able to stop one of their five attempts to carry Fairfield to victory. 

The weekend’s performance earned some Stags conference honors. All-MAAC teams are chosen by a committee made up of the MAAC’s 11 head coaches. First-year Reagan Klarmann received honors on the All-Rookie team. Diodati and Elle Scott ‘24 were named to the first team, and Josie Horosky ‘23 was chosen to the second team.

Now, the Stags will move on in the post-season to the MAAC Semifinals, an accomplishment that has been made in two of the past three seasons under head coach David Barrett. Fairfield will travel to Monmouth University on Thursday, November 7 to play in enemy territory in West Long Branch, N.J. Kickoff is slated for 6:00 p.m., and the game will be available for streaming on ESPN+

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