After an unfortunate turn of events, the Fairfield University field hockey team was left out of the North East Conference Championship game, a game played by the top two teams in the conference.
If the circumstances of the season were normal, the team would’ve had the opportunity to play in a playoff and have a chance at another ring. However, this year, the season got reduced to just seven games for the Stags due to complications with COVID-19 at opposing universities.
Head coach Jackie Kane, who has been the coach of the Fairfield University field hockey team for 26 years, felt mixed emotions about the abrupt finish to what could’ve been a stellar season. “We were super grateful and excited to have the opportunity to play, obviously it’s better than not having any chance to play,” Kane said.
Besides the uncertainty of the spread of COVID-19 among conference teams, there were some other factors that played into the disappointing end to the season, like the type of playing field that the team played on. University Field at Fairfield University is home to the standard type of field for a field hockey game: the turf is smooth and flat. The fields that the team played on this season were unpredictable, which threw a wrench in the team’s ideal pace of play.
On their schedule, the team had two more games left that would help to determine their position in the NEC; one was against Merrimack College, and the other against Wagner College.
However, due to COVID-19 protocol, both games ended up being cancelled, which led Kane to reach out to Sacred Heart University for a final game, so that she could give her senior players the sendoff they deserve. “The seniors in particular, they want to leave their legacy, so we’ve actually turned it up a bit at practice,” Kane explained. “When we end, we’re ending at a certain level for the Fall 2021 team to pick up.”
The team does have the chance to get called up to the championship game, however. Even though they would not be entering the way they hoped for at the beginning of the season, it would still be rewarding to have a second chance at glory.
Long Island University will be facing off in the NEC championship game against the number one-seeded Rider University. If one of these teams is required to quarantine through the championship game, then the Stags will get pulled up to the final game.
According to Kelly Buckley ‘21, the team hurdled many obstacles while trying to bring the team together at the beginning of the year. COVID-19 took a toll on team chemistry, as players could not gather together in social environments to get to know each other. “I’m just trying to keep everyone motivated,” Buckley mentioned.
However, the team played a low amount of games this season compared to previous seasons, with only seven total. Normally, according to Buckley, this is the amount that they would play in a preseason, which evidently could feel disheartening.
Although her senior year has been one to remember, Buckley hopes to make many more memories in the realm of field hockey and beyond. As a nursing student, she would sometimes come to practice after long hours of medical practice.
Aside from this, though, Buckley is extremely enthusiastic about coaching field hockey one day. “No matter what, I definitely think I am going to end up coaching, hopefully playing at some point in kind of a recreational thing…I’m just trying to find the balance between a career and that, and it will be a little challenging at first.”
Although the National Collegiate Athletic Association has allowed all players one extra year of eligibility, Buckley would rather pursue her career goals, even though she has strongly considered staying at Fairfield for one more year.
Even though the rest of the season is somewhat up in the air, Coach Kane and her upperclassmen athletes are extremely confident and proud in the way that the younger students have stepped up as leaders, which will prove to be important as they grow with the program. And with the messy and unpredictable season that they had this year, it is only appropriate the seniors are able to say their final goodbyes in the right way.