On Friday, September 7 Fairfield University Men’s Soccer traveled to Wilmington, North Carolina to take on number nine ranked University of North Carolina-Wilmington at UNCW Soccer Stadium in the first round of the UNCW Springhill Suites Classic. UNCW won 12 games in 2017 and went to the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament last year, beating Presbyterian College but falling to University of North Carolina in the second round. Fairfield Men’s Soccer squad also went to the NCAA tournament, winning 12 games as well, earning a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference title.
This was a key matchup early in the season for the Stags to make a statement and prove to fans why they won the MAAC just a year ago. Head coach Carl Rees expects the very best out of his players, especially for his seniors, including midfielder Diego Casielles ‘19 who backed up Coach Rees’ words with a stellar performance on September 7.
In the 45th minute, Casielles did just that and opened up the scoring right before halftime with a free kick about 20 yards out, giving Fairfield a 1-0 lead in hopes of a major upset. This goal was the senior’s second score of the season.
In the second half, UNCW striked back to even the scoring at 1-1 thanks to a Emil Elveroth ‘21 goal which was assisted by Shane Mecham ‘19. The Stags did not panic after the game was tied, settling themselves down and not losing confidence.
With that being said, Casielles displayed superb poise and composure by nailing a penalty kick in the 75th minute for his second goal of the game and third in 2018. This
display of precision showcases why he can be the Stags main leader come MAAC tournament time.
Even though UNCW had almost triple the amount of shots (UNCW had 14 while Fairfield had five) and nine corner kicks (Stags had zero), Fairfield seemed to make the most of their opportunities in this contest. UNCW had an abundance of chances to score but Casielles along with his Stag teammates proved to be too much. Plus, Fairfield’s goalkeeper Gordon Botterill ‘21 made six saves while UNCW’s goalkeeper Ryan Cretens only made one.
Seven different UNCW players registered a shot, four of them on goal, while only two Stags recorded a shot and just Casielles logged one on goal.
Being a heavy underdog against a top-10 ranked team, Fairfield surely embraced the opportunity to UNCW their first loss of the year. Coach Rees trains his players to live in the big moment and strike when necessary.
With such a big win so early in the season, Fairfield moves to 2-3 in 2018 and looks to continue their momentum against Army West Point on Tuesday, September 18 at 7 p.m at Lessing Field.