Coach Jim O’Brien Breaks Woman's Soccer Program Coaching Mark in Wild Win
Win #97 might have been the wildest for Jim O'Brien, head coach of women's soccer, not just because it was the one to break the program’s all-time coaching wins mark, but because it was probably one of the more exciting games that the coach has ever been a part of.
Anna Borea scored the game-winning goal on a penalty kick, and goalkeeper Kathleen Early stopped a Seawolves penalty kick 20 minutes prior, to give the Stags their sixth-straight win at home. “I think it might rank up there, that’s for sure,” Coach O’Brien said. “We started off really strong and got that early goal, which was nice. We got a little complacent and gave up two easy one’s that we shouldn’t have, but we bounced back and got the two we needed.”
O’Brien is in his tenth season as head coach of the program, and has achieved a 97-58-30 record during that time. With the win over Stony Brook last weekend, he is the all-time "winningest" coach, surpassing his predecessor, Maria Piechocki, who reached 96 in 2004. During his time, O’Brien has won two MAAC Championships, reached two NCAA Tournaments, and won MAAC Coach of the Year in 2012.
Details of the wild, record-breaking win:
The high-energy match started turning up steam right from the first whistle. Erin Pettersen gave the Stags their first shot just 20 seconds in to the game. Fairfield (6-1-1) would take four shots in the first seven minutes of the game until Megan O'Brien headed in a corner kick from Jessica Broadbent for her first goal of the season. It was the second straight game Broadbent has tallied an assist, and Fairfield remains unbeaten when the senior dishes out an assist (4-0-1). Stony Brook (2-5) didn’t have many chances early on but made their shots count. On their first corner of the match, Regan Bosnyak headed in a ball sent from from Tessa Devereaux to tie the game at one. With five minutes left in the period, a ball was sent into the box that got by the goalkeeper, and Gabi Rosenfeld, who recently checked in, was able to strike the ball with her right foot and give the Seawolves the lead. The first half ended with Stony Brook scoring on two of their six shot attempts and featured eight combined corners.
The second half would consist of 22 combined shots and two goals, both scored by the Stags. In the 57th minute, Emily Wieczorek, who got the starting nod, struck in a deflection that was knocked to the top of the box for her first collegiate goal. Fairfield took the first six shots of the half, which lasted until the 66th minute. After a penalty kick was awarded for a Stony Brook player being fouled in the box, the visiting side had a chance to take the lead. Danielle Fuller hit her shot to the right side of the net but Early dove that way and picked up the stop. However, the officials ruled that Early was off her line at the start of the shot, and ruled another chance. This time, Bosnyack was called for the try, but her shot went straight on and Early was there to knock it down and also saved the rebounded Bosnyak shot to preserve the 2-2 tie.
“I just tried to stay focused,” Early said. “I figured I saved the first one so I tried to stay focused and think about the feeling after saving the second one.”
Stony Brook would take three consecutive shots, with one needing Early’s intervention. In the 76th minute, Brenna Brown lined up a shot on the right side, but it hit the post and the score remained tied at two. With just over five minutes to go, Michelle Kowalski was driving in the edge of the penalty area when she was tripped by a Seawolves’ defender giving Fairfield their own penalty opportunity.
“That was a great effort on Kowalski’s part,” Coach O’Brien said. “To get herself in the box and then taken down in that box was just a testament to her hard work.” Borea was awarded the first penalty chance for the Stags this season and was able to convert for her third goal in the last four games to give the Stags a 3-2 lead. “I was trying to keep my mind pretty blank so I wouldn’t think about anything,” Borea said. “I just tried to stay calm to take the penalty kick.”
Stony Brook had two more opportunities in the waning minutes, but both Rosenfeld’s and Grogan’s shots sailed off target. In total, there were 38 shots, 22 by the Stags and 16 for the Seawolves. Both teams finished with seven corners. Early finished with four saves for Fairfield, while Ashley Castanio had eight for Stony Brook.
“It’s just a great honor,” Coach O’Brien said. “The program has a rich tradition and history of success and being win-wise the most successful coach here is just a great honor.”
Fairfield will play their final non-conference game of the season when they travel to Central Connecticut State this Sunday, September 21. Kickoff is at 3:30 pm.