Head Coach Carl Rees and the current senior class undoubtedly look back on Fairfield’s 2011 season with some sour memories. Entering the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament as newly crowned Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champions – not to mention riding a 13-game win streak – Fairfield headed north to face Brown University in their first round matchup. The Stags seized control, scoring two late first half goals and holding a 2-0 lead deep into the second half.
Even a casual follower knows the story: Brown would net three goals in the final ten minutes, capping one of the most exciting matches of the tournament, and sending a stunned Fairfield team home early.
While revenge was certainly on their minds today, Rees’ side had to settle for a goalless draw in double overtime on Sunday afternoon.
The Stags entered the game on the heels of another 1-0 victory at University of Massachusetts Lowell. Meanwhile, Brown was coming off back-to-back double-overtime goalless draws of their own.
Forward Jordan Ayris ‘15 nearly struck first for Fairfield just two minutes into the match, flicking a loose ball over goalkeeper Mitch Kupstas. His wide open look from inside the 18-yard box would sail just wide past the right post.
Forward Nico Lozada crafted the best breakaway chance for the Bears in the opening stages, but sent his wavering shot well over the crossbar in the ninth minute.
Defense was again the story for both sides, with the teams entering halftime scoreless and with each only two shots to their names.
The second half would see play open up a bit more for both offenses. Will Cross would find his way through the Stag defense 10 minutes in and send another shot for Brown, skidding just wide left. Eight minutes later, Fairfield would squander another golden opportunity. A deflected shot from Jordan Emsley ‘18 fell just outside the 6-yard box to fellow Ben Wignall ‘18, whose lunging shot rocketed off the lower right post.
As expected, both defenses held their own, and the game inevitably went to overtime.
Neither team would muster even a shot in the opening period, with any possible scoring opportunities for both teams being stifled by the defenses. With about nine minutes left of play, Wignall would pounce on another loose ball at the edge of the 6-yard box, but sent his volley hard and just wide into the side netting.
Junior Matt Turner thwarted another dangerous chance for Brown off of a corner kick, punching the incoming ball just out of his box. Eduardo Martin would frantically send a shot back in for the Bears, but only into a wall of defenders.
When the final whistle blew, Fairfield finished the game narrowly outshooting Brown 9-8, but not forcing a single save from goalkeeper Mitch Kupstas.
Both sides had obvious confidence in their defenses, pushing multiple men forward and using a tight, high midfield formation. However, typical of any Fairfield match this season, scoring chances were at a premium for both offenses.
“With a little bit more luck, we could have won 2-0,” said Rees. “We changed the tactics in the second half. We played with two strikers to create more scoring opportunities. We just didn’t quite take our chances in front of goal.”
Brown’s aggressive pressure caused some headaches at midfield, but the defense and confident play of Turner in goal made sure that the Stags held on to their clean sheet. The Bears – an excellent set piece team – sent multiple dangerous crosses and corners toward Fairfield’s net, but could garner no quality chances past Turner.
“We’ve been bulletproof so far,” said Turner. “The defense has done well to keep the ball in front and not allow a lot of quality chances for our opposition.”
Turner, who made three saves on the day, has now posted five clean sheets on the season. He is ranked fifth in the nation in save percentage, having entered Sunday’s match with a .919 mark.
“Brown is a perennial national tournament team,” Rees said. “For a young team such as ours to go toe-to-toe for 110 minutes and have the better opportunities to win the game between the two teams, I’m very proud. They’re focused, they’re concentrated, they’re optimistic looking forward.”
Fairfield – now owning a 3-2-2 record – has a quick turnaround before seeing action in their conference opener at Rider (3-2-2) on Oct. 1. The Stags next return home to host Marist on Oct. 4. Kickoff for both matches is scheduled for 7 p.m.