Fairfield Now - Spring 2009
Both Fairfield Lacrosse programs have new head coaches and high hopes for the season
By John Torsiello
Head Coach Andrew Copelan of the Fairfield men's lacrosse program during a pre-season practice.
First-year Head Coach Andrew Copelan has lofty goals for the Fairfield men's lacrosse program; goals he believes will establish the University as a leader in the game.
"I want to build a blue-collar, smash-mouth attitude with the team," the 27-year-old former assistant coach at the University of Maryland said enthusiastically. "I'll look for that emotion even with the skilled, finesse players up front.
"While there are some great programs in the southern New England area, like Yale, Harvard, Brown, Quinnipiac, and Sacred Heart, there is not one program that you think of as the glamour team," he continued "I'd like to have Fairfield thought of as that program."
Fairfield's men compete in the Eastern College Athletic Conference. Copelan is only the third coach of the school's men's team and takes over from Ted Spencer, who recently assumed a position as associate dean of athletics at Fairfield after 13 years at the helm.
A fine player at Bucknell University, Copelan came to Fairfield after serving as an assistant to Dave Cottle at the University of Maryland, a glamour program in its own right that advanced to the NCAA Final Four in 2006.
Copelan coached Marist College in 2004 - at the time the youngest Division I coach in the nation. He was named Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Coach of the Year that season. The following year, he led Marist to its first ever NCAA Tournament berth.
A bright, supremely committed individual Copelan approaches his task the same way he expects his players to.
"I'm passionate about what I do and competitive as hell," he said with a smile. "I want my guys to have fun and I realize they are students first here. But having fun usually means winning and I want my players to be as passionate about the game as I am."
Fairfield finished 4-9 last season, winning its final three games of the campaign. The Stags have a freshman- and sophomore-dominated team that Copelan believes he can mold into a winner.
"We worked very hard during the fall where we went five days a week. I'm not trying to overwhelm them with too many technical plays but rather we've been working on sound fundamentals. The team is a tight-knit group."
Copelan, whose sister Stephanie graduated from Fairfield in 2006, plans on spending a lot of time with recruiting.
"That aspect of coaching lacrosse has changed dramatically in recent years. We once had several hotbeds of the game, like upstate New York (he's from Rochester), on Long Island, and Maryland. But now we are looking everywhere, places such as Texas, Minnesota, and on the West Coast. We're looking for athletes first and foremost."
This year's 40-member squad has a number of players from New York and New Jersey on its roster. Eighteen, in fact. But there are players from five other states, the District of Columbia, and Canada on the team.
Copelan has been impressed with the support he has received from the Fairfield administration, alumni, and sports community.
"The rest of the coaching staff here is great. I have a nice relationship with (women's lacrosse Head) Coach Mike Waldvogel. He's been sort of like a father figure to me and I look to him for advice."
Head Coach Mike Waldvogel of the women's lacrosse program is a member of the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
Women's lacrosse Head Coach Mike Waldvogel feels inspired every time he shows up for work.
The 61-year-old has found a nurturing home at Fairfield University, as well as with the team he took over this season.
"I love being here and love the University," said the National Lacrosse Hall of Famer, who has been associated with the sport as a player or coach for more than 40 years.
Although Waldvogel is a first-year head coach at Fairfield, he is not new to the program. He served as an assistant last year under Beth Loffredo, helping lead the team to an impressive 20-2 record. When Loffredo moved on to a full-time post as an elementary school teacher, Waldvogel was more than happy to take over as head coach.
"We had a wonderful year last year and just missed winning the MAAC (Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) playoffs and having a shot at the NCAA tournament," the Madison resident said as he sat back in his comfortable if somewhat cluttered office. "We lost our entire defense from last season, but we have our goalie and whole offense back, so the goals are high again this year."
Fairfield competes in the seven-team MAAC women's lacrosse league and plays non-league games against the likes of Yale, the University of Connecticut, and Boston College. The regular season schedule starts in mid-February and the season concludes with league playoffs and the NCAA tournament in May.
Waldvogel has an impressive resume. After a stellar career as a player at Cortland State University, he played for the U.S. National team in 1974 and 1976 and coached the squad in 1980. From 1980 to 2002 he was the head coach at Yale University, where he was the winningest coach in the program's history. He led the Bulldogs to three NCAA tournaments and three straight Ivy League crowns from 1988 to 1990. He was an assistant with the Fairfield men's lacrosse team for the 2003-04 season. He has also held various positions with a number of national lacrosse committees and organizations. He has seen the game grow among young women.
"We're getting girls with better skills at a younger age and that comes with better coaching at the junior level. We still have a ways to go to make the game more accessible to inner city kids.
"The one thing I like about coaching women is that they listen and they understand their role as members of a team. If anything, you have to push them to be more assertive at times," he said.
This year's 30-member team has a strong New York and New Jersey flavor, with nine players hailing from those two lacrosse hotbeds. But five other states are represented on the roster, including three players from Pennsylvania and one from Maryland. The squad had a six-week training period last fall and worked on its strength and conditioning during the late fall and early winter.
This year's team promised to be explosive on offense, returning its six top scorers from last year. Back in the fold are leading scorer Kristen Coleman (68 goals, 22 assists), Erin Rigby (48-16), Abbey Goodwin (31-15), Rebecca White (29-14), Kylee Martin (19-15), Kim Fuchs (25-1) and Cristin Lecuna (24-2). Also returning is starting goalie Lauren Chatnik.
- Carmen Maciarello was added to the Fairfield University men's basketball program as an assistant coach. Maciarello served as director of basketball operations at Siena College and played professionally for several years in Italy.
- Cross-country runners Kevin Manke '10 of Ridgewood, N.J., Ben Heslin '11 of Kensington, Conn., Caroline Conant '10 of East Longmeadow, Mass., Ashley Doran '10 of Brick, N.J., and Eileen Smith '10 of Little Neck, N.Y., were named to the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) All-Academic team for the 2008 season.
- The men's soccer team won its second MAAC title in three years by beating Loyola College, 1-0, following the conclusion of the 2008 regular season. The Stags clinched a bid to the NCAA Tournament with the victory, but were defeated by rivals UConn in the opening round.
- Men's soccer players Christian Uy '10 and Matthew Uy '11 of New Hyde Park, N.Y. and Tom Clements '09 of Stowmarket, Conn., were named to the All-MAAC team for the 2008 season. Teammates Dave Bartholomew '11 of Swarthmore, Penn., Erik Ilisije '11 of Manalapan, N.J., Shane Kurtz '11 of Easton, Mass., and Mike Lentine '08 of Penfield, N.Y., were named to the MAAC All-Academic team.
- No fewer then four program records fell during a swim meet against Providence College. Kekoa Taparra '12 of Mililani, Hawaii, set a record in the 200-meter IM, Greg Bellizzi '12 of Edison, N.J., set a new mark in the 50-meter freestyle, Meghan Carlson '09 of Worcester, Mass., established a new record in the 200-meter backstroke, and the team of Brenna Dean '12 of Edison, N.J., Theresa Garrity '12 of Middlebury, Conn., Katie Merz '11 of Absecon, N.J., and Michelle Yoshida '12 of Keneohe, Hawaii, broke the old record in the 400-meter freestyle relay.
- Women's soccer star Ahna Johnson '09 of Hamden, Conn. was named the MAAC women's soccer Offensive Player of the Year following the Stags' highly successful season.
- The women's volleyball team captured the MAAC regular season championship by finishing 16-2 in the league.