Fairfield Now - Fall 2008
Coaches Come Home:
Fairfield athletes win big, on and off the field
By Jack Jones
Mary Vallely '08 tears downfield during a game with Mount St. Mary's at Alumni Field. Vallely was among the nation's elite in caused turnovers.
The spring sports season starts out with cold, blustery winds and ends with warm, gentle breezes. Somewhere in between those extremes comes a moment of transition, when hope begins to stir as athletes and fans alike get a glimpse of the start of spring.
It was during this spring transition that something else began to stir on the Fairfield University campus - an excitement that captured the attention of Stags fans and regional and national sports communities.
The women's lacrosse team captured everyone's fancy with a season that will go down in Fairfield history as one of the most successful campaigns for any sport. After dropping the season opener to nationally ranked Yale University, the women's team put together a 17-game winning streak that began with a one-goal win over Sacred Heart University and went straight through to the final game of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC). The winning streak was the longest of any women's lacrosse team in the nation during the 2008 campaign.
Fairfield won games against opponents from the Big East (Connecticut) and the Ivy League (Columbia). The team even beat a couple of Gaels - St. Mary's (Calif.) and Iona.
The Stags posted an unbeaten record in MAAC play at 6-0 to win the regular-season title. Fairfield advanced to the MAAC tournament championship game following an 11-8 victory over Iona, but had its dream of an NCAA tournament bid snatched away with an 11-10 loss to Marist in the tourney final.
The men's lacrosse team played its first season as a member of the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Lacrosse League, which includes Georgetown, Loyola, Penn State, UMass, St. John's, Rutgers, and Hobart. The Stags posted a win in their first-ever ECAC lacrosse game, knocking off Rutgers on the road by a 10-7 count. The victory was also the third in as many games as the team started the campaign with a 3-0 mark. Despite a losing season overall, the Stags set themselves up for a good start to their second ECAC season.
The spring also brought success to other athletic programs in 2008, including the men and women's tennis teams. Both squads enjoyed solid seasons in MAAC play, posting a 5-2 record against conference opponents. But the Stags peaked at the right time and put together a strong run in the MAAC tournament that sent both the men and women to their respective tournament final. While the teams lost to Niagara in both tournaments, the MAAC coaches saw the season as a successful one for second-year Head Coach Ed Paige, who was voted the MAAC Coach of the Year by his peers.
The women's lacrosse team held the longest winning streak in the nation last season.
Golf and Rowing
Paige was not the only Stag head coach to garner such an award. Rowing Coach David Patterson and Golf Coach Len Roberto were also recognized as MAAC Coaches of the Year during the spring season. Patterson earned the accolade after leading the men's and women's rowing teams to a runner-up finish at the MAAC championships in May. Under his guidance, the Stags performed admirably at several regional events this season, which included a gold medal for the men's varsity four at the New England championships.
Meanwhile, Coach Roberto picked up his second Coach of the Year award - his first was in 2004 - after leading the women's golf team to a second-place finish and the men's squad to a fifth-place finish at the MAAC tournament.
Softball and Baseball
The softball team advanced to the MAAC tournament and took third place in the four-team event. The Stags started the season in tournaments in Florida and South Carolina, but really warmed up when they returned to New England. Fairfield won 20 of 31 games it played after its southern swing, including an 11-4 mark against non-conference foes.
The baseball team faced another challenging schedule that included a nationally ranked opponent as well as some of the region's top teams. The Stags battled 20th-ranked Kentucky as part of its southern trip, and also played traditional rivals such as Fordham and Connecticut. The squad also made a run at one of the coveted MAAC tournament spots, falling just short of its goal.
And in the classroom...
Besides their prowess on the field, Fairfield student athletes also excelled in the classroom. Twenty-eight student athletes earned All-Academic honors from their respective conferences this season - baseball (4), softball (4), men's golf (1), women's golf (1), men's tennis (3), women's tennis (5), rowing (5), men's lacrosse (4), and women's lacrosse (6).
Also during the spring, the NCAA announced its team public recognition awards, which honors individual teams for having an Academic Progress Rate (APR) in the top 10 percent for its respective sport. Fairfield University had seven teams receive this award: baseball, women's golf, women's soccer, softball, women's swimming, women's rowing, and men's tennis.
To follow the action during the season, visit www.fairfieldstags.com.