The Fairfield University men’s and women’s lacrosse teams kicked off their respective seasons on Saturday, with the men’s squad facing off against Lehigh University in Bethlehem, P.A., and the women’s team facing off against the College of Holy Cross on Conway Field at Rafferty Stadium.
The men’s team suffered a rough loss, falling to the Mountain Hawks 20-10. Despite the loss, the Stags put out a strong effort and fight against a program that has had a lot of success. The Stags made their presence known by playing a competitive first half before running out of gas. They responded quickly after the Mountain Hawks added their name to the scoresheet 1:09 into the game with a shot from attackman Jake Gilbert ‘26, who tied the game just over a minute later at one apiece with his first collegiate goal. Shortly thereafter, at the 10:43 minute mark, the Stags took possession of the driver’s seat for the first time in the contest as another first-year, midfielder Will Consoli ‘26, scored his first collegiate goal off a pass from attackman Max Paparozzi ‘23 that helped build some much-needed confidence for the Stags.
Lehigh responded quickly with two goals of their own in the ensuing minutes, putting themselves back in possession of the game with a 3-2 lead. The Stags weren’t going to let the game get out of reach this quickly, as Paparozzi buried one in the back of the net on a man-up advantage off of a feed from midfielder Josh Demko ‘25 to tie the game with 2:40 left in the quarter. The Stags were given another man-up opportunity, and hybrid attackman and midfielder Jack McKenna ‘25 took full advantage of this chance by scoring his first goal of the season to put the Stags in the driver’s seat for the second time with a 4-3 lead with 1:33 remaining.
The Stags lost their lead quickly, as Lehigh rebounded to go back in front 5-4 at the end of the first quarter. They proceeded to come out of the gate hot in the second quarter by expanding their lead by four goals to a 9-4 margin. Fairfield finally got a shot through at the 7:25 minute mark, as McKenna secured his second goal of the game with some assurance from defender Christopher DeBellis ‘25 to cut the lead to four. After another Lehigh goal, the Stags worked to close the gap before the half, as midfielder Luke Okupski ‘24 netted one through off a pass from Paparozzi to cut the lead back down to four with 2:45 remaining. The Stags received another man-up opportunity, and McKenna, just like he did earlier, took full advantage by scoring his first hat-trick of the season, narrowing the margin to three with 1:57 to go in the half.
Carrying much-renewed momentum out of halftime, Lehigh proved to have other plans rolled up their sleeves, as they stormed out of the gate with three goals of their own to expand their lead to six. McKenna slowed their speed with his fourth goal of the game to trim the Mountain Hawks’ lead to 13-8 with 7:44 remaining in the third. Shortly thereafter, another man-up opportunity was awarded to the Stags, and redshirt attackman Bryce Ford ‘24 fired one through to make it a 13-9 lead for Lehigh with 6:14 to go.
The Stags soon saw the game fall out of reach as they failed to put anything in the back of the net for over a quarter, and during this span, Lehigh scored five more times to extend their lead to 18-9. Fairfield finally snapped their goalless drought with 5:58 remaining in the contest, as McKenna sniped one through to make it an 18-10 ball game. McKenna’s goal, however, would be the final time Fairfield would light the lamp, as the Mountain Hawks went on to win, 20-10, as the Stags took the loss in their first game of the season.
“We learned a lot from this game,” Ford said. “When we get back out there on Saturday, versus Wagner, we’ll have another opportunity to learn and grow from this. We’re gonna have a lot of games, a lot of learning opportunities. So we’re definitely excited to stack up some wins.”
“It wasn’t much of effort and not trying as hard,” Paparozzi added. “It was more about lacrosse IQ and those little things that we need to clean up. We have a lot of guys returning, but we have a lot of young guys playing out there for the first time. It was a learning experience and there were just little things that happened in the game that you just got to be aware of, and we went over that in practice and that should help us grow in the future.”
Meanwhile, back on campus, the women’s team hosted the College of Holy Cross in their first matchup of the season at Rafferty Stadium. After a quick Holy Cross goal in the opening minute, the Stags turned the next two quarters into an offensive rampage, as graduate midfielder Ellie Grefenstette got the party started early by putting in her first goal of the season off a feed from attacker Libby Rowe ‘23 at the 12:47 mark, followed by two more respective scores at the 11:53 and 7:39 minute marks from the hybrid attacker/midfielder Olivia Doody ‘23 and fellow hybrid attacker/midfielder Elizabeth Taulluto ‘23 to put the Stags in front, 3-1.
Holy Cross responded soon thereafter with a goal of their own, but the Stags had other plans. Doody found the back of the net a second time at the 4:32 minute mark, and midfielder Rylee Harrell ‘24 added her name to the scoresheet with a goal of her own just 47 seconds later to expand the lead to 5-2. Grefenstette then closed out the quarter with six seconds left to net her second of the game off a feed from Doody to head into the second quarter up 6-2.
After Holy Cross kicked things off to cut the lead in half, the Stags later responded with three goals of their own in a 1:20 span. Midfielder Maggie Fort ‘23 snuck one through off a Grefenstette pass at the 9:09 mark for her first of the season to make it 7-3, followed by midfielder Haley Burns ‘24 and attacker Amanda Kozak ‘24 each burying one of their own to expand the lead to 9-3 with attacker Libby Rowe ‘23 helping both of them out in the process. The Stags later put one more in before halftime as Rowe snuck one through with 26 seconds left to give the home team a 10-4 with her first of the season.
After a dominating offensive performance in the first half, the Stags slowed down as they only netted one in the third quarter. Talluto scored her second goal of the game to give the Stags a seven-goal lead at the 10:36 mark, their largest of the game. The Stags did not score again for over a quarter, as Holy Cross put four goals in the back of the net to trim the lead to three. Rowe later found Kozak for her second goal of the contest with 7:18 to go in the fourth to put the Stags up by four. After Holy Cross cut the lead back down to three, Grefenstette scored her first hat trick of the season with 3:16 remaining to once again put the Stags in front by four. Holy Cross refused to back down, as they once again closed the gap by three with 1:33 remaining and that was all they could do before time expired. The Stags improved to 1-0 on the season in a contest that was a tale of two halves.
“To be perfectly honest, that was our scout for Holy Cross and our execution was a reflection of our preparation in practice,” said Coach Laura Field, according to fairfieldstags.com. “A win is a win, that’s true, but going forward if we want to put ourselves on the map, we’ve got to actually show up at every single game, to our level and not anyone else’s level.”
The men’s lacrosse team will travel to Staten Island, N.Y., on Saturday, Feb. 18 at 1 p.m. against Wagner College. The women’s lacrosse team will travel to Storrs, Conn., on Wednesday, Feb. 15 for their first road contest of the season, which will take place at 2 p.m. They will return home on Saturday, Feb. 18 in a tilt against Wagner College at Rafferty Stadium at 2 p.m. For more information on Fairfield lacrosse and athletics as a whole, please visit www.fairfieldstags.com for more information.