The sun was shining on Rafferty Stadium at Fairfield University as the eighth-seeded Marist women’s lacrosse team took on top seed Fairfield. It would be Marist’s last game of the season, as they would lose 14-13 in overtime. A hard, well-fought contest between two great teams.
“I’m so proud,” Head Coach Jess WIlkinson said of her team. “We were the eighth seed and we played the first seed and we played yesterday, and we took them to overtime.”
Marist came to play right out of the gate, with senior attacker Isabelle Stockman winning the first draw of the game. The Red Foxes also scored first off of a free position shot that senior attacker Devon Connolly ripped to the top corner. Thirty seconds later, it was senior attacker Kelly George off of a run from the elbow. Connolly then scored again to make it 3-0 Marist in the first seven minutes.
“We were making sure we were moving a lot on attack, and having a bit more of a fluid offense,” Coach Wilkinson said. “We really looked at our Fairfield game from last week and see what we can improve on.”
Fairfield responded after they took a timeout on a free position goal and then another try to the cage, both scored by junior midfielder Arianna Lavelle. George had the answer to keep Marist’s lead to two, by beating her defender on a trip to the goal.
The Stags were assessed a card after checking graduate student attacker Sam Mehalick to the head. Marist was a man up for two minutes, but unable to capitalize on the opportunity. Fairfield scored shorthanded, making it a one goal game.
On the Red Foxes next change to goal, Stockman broke up a play behind Fairfield’s goal line. She was unable to corral the ball, but it was flicked up in front of Fairfield junior goalkeeper Olivia Conquest. Mehalick was on top of the crease when she won the ball and threw it in the wide open net to make the score 5-3.
The trend of close, back and forth contests for the Red Foxes continued this afternoon. Fairfield was able to tie the game at five off of a free position and a pass in front of senior goalkeeper Delaney Galvin.
After Fairfield’s fifth goal, the game was tied for the next 13 minutes. Both goalkeepers were making big saves, attackers were hitting pipes and defense was playing well on both sides.
The Stags broke the stalemate with 2:25 left in the first half, with a goal from sophomore attacker Libby Rowe. They scored again with 1:49 left off a free position from senior Kelly Horning, the MAAC midfielder of the year.
Mehalick had one more answer for her team, scoring with 49 seconds left in the half to bring it back to a one goal game.
Fairfield opened the scoring in the second half, with a bounce shot between the legs of Galvin to extend their lead over Marist to two goals. Mehalick again had the answer from on top of the crease off a pass from Stockman.
The Stags hit the post on a free position shot, and graduate student Jess Lasaponara scooped up to start the transition. Connolly found Mehalick for her fifth of the game to make the score 9-8.
Down by one, the Red Foxes showed no quit. Defense had a spectacular, forceful stop that led to a fast break for the attack. George spun past her defender with 12 seconds left on the shot clock, and the game was tied at nine.
“We really wanted to stay on their cutters,” Coach Wilkinson said of the defense’s approach today. “They have some tall cutters and if they are even a little open they will hit that mark. We were watching them slip the cuts in from the backside or the elbows, and we essentially really wanted to keep them off the eight meter.”
Sophomore attacker Kerri Gutenberger got herself on the board to overtake the lead on a free position shot due to a push from her defender with 19 minutes left in the half. Connolly extended Marist’s score to 11, after her shot hit Conquest’s stick and trickled over the goal line.
Fairfield answered to bring the game within one, but Connolly found the back of the net again to complete her hat trick. The Stags started to pick up their physical game but that resulted in a lot of shoves and check calls handed to them by the officials. They found themselves back in the game off of a free position goal from junior midfielder Ellie Grefenstette.
With seven minutes left to play, Marist freshman midfielder Delaney Hayes was assessed a yellow card for a cross check. Fairfield was now a man up on attack. Senior defender Allison Mahoney intercepted the ball, and the Red Foxes were off to transition. A turnover brought it back down to Galvin, where she made a massive save right on the doorstep. She finished the game with 12 saves overall.
Four minutes to go and the Red Foxes still in the lead by one, they killed off the penalty and set up on offense. Fairfield’s defense was physical, but George found Mehalick with seven seconds left on the shot clock to make the score 13-11.
Four minutes in lacrosse is an eternity, especially when it is a two goal game. Work still had to be done for Marist to maintain their lead and secure the win. After a media timeout, Stockman and the players on the circle had to win the draw to keep their momentum, and they did, with senior defender Romy Villemure scooping the ground ball. The draw circle combined for 19 draw controls on the day.
The Red Foxes were unable to capitalize after winning the draw though, and the Stags went the other way, scoring a goal to bring it within one. They won the next draw and after a long defensive stand, Horning was given a free position shot where she put the ball past Galvin, tying the game at 13 with 57 seconds left.
Lacrosse overtime plays with a “golden goal” rule, which means that the next goal wins. Each team has to find the back of the net one last time to put the game away. One team gets to celebrate, and the other has to feel heartbreak.
Fairfield won the draw in overtime, they settled on offense, the Stags fired off a shot, but Galvin saved it and Marist went off in transition. Connolly crossed the restraining line with 68 seconds left of the shot clock. Conquest saved the shot from Gutenberger and it went back towards defense.
With 16 seconds left on the clock, Fairfield’s Horning scored the heartbreaker to win 14-13, and move on to the MAAC semifinals.
“I wish more than anything that the outcome was different today but they just have to keep their heads high and know that in any other years, when we have a full season and time to do more we will be even more successful,” Coach Wilkinson said. “The sky’s the limit for us and we hit a high standard that I hope we keep going forward.”
The Red Foxes finished their season 3-5 and will graduate nine seniors from the program, all of which have had long, record breaking careers.
Edited by Bridget Reilly
Photo Credit: Marist Athletics