The Fairfield University men’s soccer team had their season opener on March 11 after a 400-day long break. The Fairfield Stags travelled to Buffalo, NY to compete against the Canisius College Griffins. This is the first of their seven game Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Team (MAAC) season.
Despite the challenges the Stags had to face, Coach Rees did not allow it to affect the players and the season as a whole. “We are trying to focus on what we have rather than what we are missing. The challenges we have to make are flexible and adaptable. We have great focus and intensity during the training.”, said Coach Rees, of his team who have not been able to play on the field together for over a year.
The Stags did not let these upsetting challenges play an important role on the way they played their first game of the season. They made sure to dominate on the field and represent their Stag community in the best way possible.
The Stags and Griffins started off period one of the game with high intensity levels. Both teams were competing aggressively on the defensive end.
The Griffins had their first yellow card called on midfielder Julius Schoner ‘23, 20 minutes into the game. The Stags were able to get many shot attempts throughout the first period. Yet, they were unsuccessful in netting any of them.
The defensive strategies were really strong for both teams. The Stags goalkeeper Gordon Botterill ‘21 really got his work in on his side of the field. He saved two shot attempts within the first period.
The Fairfield Stags were able to get up the field and end the last eight minutes of the first period with a goal. Midfielder Matt McGlinchey ‘21 assisted defender Cormac Pike ‘22 to a goal. This kept the Fairfield Stags fired up to stay aggressive and keep their energy going for the next half of the game.
The energy that the teams were displaying on the field surely brought the audience and the coaches a lot of happiness and relief. With everything going on in the world, being able to get back on the field with your team and coaching staff is something to definitely be grateful for.
“You miss it more when you are gone. It is a great experience to play college sports and lucky to play in the facilities we have. They are happy to be together and renew friendships.” stated Coach Rees of the team on their opportunity to finally get back on the field. “We all are appreciative of what we have.”
At 37 minutes and 30 seconds the Stags kept their one-point lead and they did not let it affect their mindset on the rest of the game. They continued to play their best on both ends of the field.
The Griffins were keeping up with their defense and stayed aggressive throughout the second half. The Canisius Griffins defender, Ethan Grover ‘23 was hit with a red card 7 minutes into the second period. Grover was sent off the field for the remainder of the game, which did not stop either team from competing harder against one another.
After 81 minutes and 35 seconds had passed, a walk-on athlete Alex Oliveira ‘23 scored his first collegiate goal. This got the whole team fired up with excitement. The Fairfield Stags led the rest of the game with a 2-0 score, holding off Canisius to secure a shutout.
Coach Rees had some words on one of the most memorable moments of the season-opener, “Alex Olivera scored his first college goal and joined the program as a walk-on. It was a fun experience to see him smash the goal in tonight. It was certainly memorable to see the players back together.”
The Stags kept their defense going in order to not have any goals made by the Griffins. The Fairfield Stags outshot the Canisius Griffins by 13-5. The Fairfield men’s soccer team brought back home a win for their Fairfield community.
Coach Rees did not have many worries for the game or season in general. He had a lot of confidence and faith in his team. He knew they would bring their all to the field. “I am not exactly nervous. There is always an anxiety leading up to these competitions. As people say you always have butterflies, but you have to get the butterflies flying in formation,” Coach Rees stated regarding his nerves for the season.
The Stags will be hosting Quinnipiac University on March 18 on Lessing Field at 1 p.m. The home opener will be broadcasted live by the Stags Sports Network. Make sure to show your support for the Stags soccer team by keeping up with the schedule and live streaming.