The field hockey team had a burdensome weight put on their shoulders this season as they try to repeat as Patriot League Champions again this season.

Despite finishing .500 overall last year and fourth in their division, the team exceeded expectations and went to the school’s first NCAA field hockey tournament by winning the conference tournament.

Picked to finish fourth in a pre-season poll with a difficult schedule looming, the Lady Stags darted out of the gate this season, knocking off two tough teams, Providence and University of Rhode Island. With those wins, the Stags collected seven votes in the National Field Hockey Coaches Association Poll, the first time a Fairfield field hockey team had ever received votes for a national ranking.

Since receiving those accolades and the team’s win over Rhode Island, the Stags suffered their fourth straight loss on Sunday, losing Dartmouth 6-2.

“We’ve been hit with a couple of injuries this year. They’ve set us back a little, where many players have had to make sacrifices by playing out of position,” said Kiara Nickl ’04. “But we’re healthy now and are optimistic for the rest of the year.”

Defensive miscues and a lack of quality shots on goal contributed to the team’s demise against Dartmouth. The Lady Stags started the game off strong when Dani Brown ’03 intercepted a pass in front of the Dartmouth goal and slapped it just past the reach of goalie Hannah Murnen for the game’s first score at 14:55. The Big Green came back with two goals off defensive corner shots to take a 2-1 lead at halftime.

After another Dartmouth goal just two minutes after halftime, Fairfield stormed down the field when Julie Knoblich ’04 shot a laser off the pass from Liz Croney ’03 through all defenders to cut the deficit to 3-2.

Unfortunately, it was déjà vu for Fairfield defenders as the Big Green scored two more goals from defensive corner shots, adding an insurance goal with 13:37 left to win the game easily by a score of 6-2. Lauren Thomas ’04 stopped 10 shots in net for the Lady Stags but could only turn away two of the six defensive corner blasts.

Fairfield controlled the ball much of the game with crisp passing and good communication between players. Due to their inability to penetrate the Dartmouth defense downfield, Fairfield could not get close enough to the goal to shoot consistently or effectively.

The team’s strong freshman class has been an important assest to the Stags so far this year, led by midfielder Rebecca Odenwaelder, who has made an immediate impact, according to Nickl.

“A lot of freshmen have been stepping up,” Nickl said. “They have been really filling some big shoes this year.”

The Stags travel to Philadelphia this weekend to face Drexel on Saturday and St. Josephs on Sunday.

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