For Division 1 athletes, the season never stops. Along with in season play, there’s preseason and postseason when the unit works together to improve both their game and fitness. During these times, the recruited freshman adjust to the longer practices and fitness training sessions, the faster pace of the game and the new faces of their teammates. The offseason can be tough, but it’s helped the freshmen of the lacrosse team find their rhythm at Fairfield.

As a freshman, a majority of the first year is spent observing and learning from the upperclassmen. Practice becomes a time where the rookies start to grapple with the change of the game, faces and positions. Although freshman year is seen as a learning year, Riley Hellstein ‘17 has become a leader on the team.

After captain and attack Addie Reilly ‘14 was injured in the start of the season, Hellstein stepped up to fill her position. Hellstein was a talented three-season athlete in high school, earning All-Area honors in lacrosse and All-American honors in soccer. But, she had no idea that she would have such an impact on the women’s lacrosse team so early.

After stepping up for Reilly, Hellstein has played in 13 games, eight of which she started. She’s scored 18 goals already this season, closely following behind teammates Melanie Raso ‘14 and Jenna Slowey ‘14. She’s also assisted 10 goals, posting a combined total of 18 points for the Stags, again right behind Raso and Slowey. And to top off her achievements, Hellstein leads the team in draw controls, having won 36.

“It’s weird because I don’t consider myself as a leader,” said Hellstein.

Hellstein has been named the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Rookie of the Week three separate times for outstanding play in games against New Hampshire, Iona, Manhattan, Sacred Heart and Niagara. She has been noted for her game-high draw controls and ability to set up players to execute goal scoring plays. Aside from all of her accomplishments, Hellstein never spoke highly of herself, just her teammates — especially Raso.

“Mel is just so good at everything she does,” said Hellstein. “She’s become a leader to me.”

Raso may be Hellstein’s leader, but Raso’s expectations of Hellstein have been exceeded.

“She has showed herself between the draws, between scoring, between everything we need her to do on the field,” said Raso. “I definitely think she’s brought a lot of momentum onto the field and it goes to show that you can come onto the field as a freshman and just do such a good job for the team.”

Fairfield is now ranked second in the MAAC and Hellstein is expected to carry the same momentum she brought throughout the season to the upcoming games and the MAAC Tournament. Currently, Hellstein has one goal: “I want to win a MAAC Championship.”

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