To the Founders and Friends of Fairfield Lacrosse-The #14/#15 Fairfield Lacrosse Stags were upset by the Falcons of Air Force in the Finals of the ECAC Lacrosse League game played at Jesse Owens Stadium in Columbus, Ohio by a 9-8 score. A furious three goal rally in the fourth quarter was not enough to overtake the Falcons. A great hard shot by Senior Eric Warden was stopped by the Air Force goalkeeper with nine seconds left in the game to prevent the game going into OT. Warden ended his Fairfield career with two goals on the afternoon. The Stags offensively were paced by Juniors Tristan Sperry and Colin McLinden who both recorded two goals and one assist. Senior Goalkeeper Jack Murphy was credited with seven saves and three ground balls in his final game in cage for the Stags.
The game is ready to start for the Finals of the ECAC Lacrosse League with the NCAA Automatic Qualifier bid on the line. Murphy is goal for Fairfield and Brent Dadiego will be in goal for the first half as Air Force uses a two goal keeper system. Senior Michael Roe will take the first face off of the game against Erik Smith. Erik Smith wins the draw and gets to the ground ball. He sets up the Falcons offense. Air Force takes it time and probes the Stags defense. Falcons’ Keith Dreyer catches a feeding pass from Erik Smith and scores the first goal of the game at 13:50 of the period. Air Force leads 1-0 on the assisted goal. Roe and Erik Smith take the face off. Roe wins the draw and his wing Junior Bryan Barry gets the ground ball. No Air Force defender slides to stop Barry who immediately goes the cage. His low bouncer shot beats Dadiego! Barry’s unassisted goal is his first of the season. Barry’s goal ties the game at 1-1 with 13:41 in the quarter. Roe and Erik Smith take the face off. Erik Smith wins the draw and he gets the ground ball. Falcons now go on a long possession and firing lots of shots. Falcons move the ball and Smith’s shot is wide at 13:16. Next Falcons McKee’s shot goes over the cage. Air Force’s offense resets and McKee fires a hard shot high at 12:49 remaining in the period. Falcons keep the ball. AF’s Kyle Cassady shot is saved by Murphy but the Falcons get to the rebound. Erik Smith takes a shot the goes wide at 11:47. In the next minute, Falcons’ Erik Smith takes three wide shots. Air Force retains the ball with 10:44 left in the first quarter Falcons settle the offense and reset. Now McKee shot at 9:41 is wide followed very quickly a shot by Christopher Allen goes wide. McKee takes another shot that goes wide at 9:25. Stags win the race to the end line and get the ball. Stags first clear of the game is at 9:16. Fairfield’s offense set up but suffers a turnover at 8:36. Air Force clears the ball. Falcon’s offense tries working the Stags defense for almost two minutes. During this time, the officials throw a penalty flag. Free play for Air Force and Mike Crampton scores unassisted. Air Force now leads 2-1 with 6:42 remaining in the first quarter. Senior Shawn Honovich is called for a one minute slashing penalty. Man down face off. Junior Louis DiGiacomo comes out to the face off circle against Erik Smith. Erik Smith wins the draw and Falcons’ Kyle O’Brien gets the ground ball. Air Force’s man up unit is matched up against the Stags man down unit. Falcons’ Kyle Cassidy feeds Keith Dreyer who scores man up. Falcons lead 3-1 at 5:52 on the assisted goal. DiGiacomo now meets Bryan Price at the face off circle. Price wins the face off and he gets the ground ball. Air Force moves the ball around. Dreyer scores unassisted at 4:39 left in the period. Air Force extends its lead to 4-1. Coach Copelan calls a time out to stop the momentum and calm down the team. Game restarts. Roe comes back out to the face off circle against Erik Smith. Roe plunges and racks. He runs down the field with the ball in the back off his stick. He shoots the ball and it is in the back of the net! Incredible shot! This is Roe’s first goal of the 2014 season scored at 4:32. The goal cuts the Air Force lead to 4-2. Roe comes back to the face off circle to take on Erik Smith. Roe wins the face off and ground ball. Stags start the offense. At 2:22, Junior Tristan Sperry takes a wide shot. Falcons’ Marcus Walker gets the ground ball and moves down field. In chase, Sperry gets calls for a 30 second push from behind at 2:13. Falcons’ man up unit works the ball. McKee takes a shot that Murphy saves. Stags clear and work the ball around the cage. With 45 seconds left on the first period clock, Sophomore Conor Dalton fires a shot that goes wide. Stags back up and keep the ball. With 5 seconds left Fairfield has a turnover. Falcons pick up the ground ball. Horn signs and the first period ends with Air Force leading 4-2.
Roe and Erik Smith start the second quarter at the face off circle. Roe wins the face off and the ground ball. He starts the Stags offense. Junior Colin McLinden has the ball and he spots Senior Eric Warden. Warden buries his shot at 14:13. Air Force’s lead is now 4-3 on the assisted goal. Roe now faces off against Price. Roe gets the win and the ground ball. Stags offense settles the ball and takes its time. Sophomore TJ Neubauer takes a shot at 13:04 that is blocked. Air Force clear is good and the Falcons’ offense sets up. After taking over a minute off the clock, Dreyer’s shot at 11:40 is blocked. Stags have a successful clear. On a bad pass, Neubaurer gets a ground ball at 10:15. Stags offense goes into high gear with Junior Tristan Sperry taking a shot that goes wide. Next Freshman David Fleming’s shot at 9:22 goes wide. Stags retain the ball and Fleming’s next shot is saved by Dadiego. Fairfield gets the rebound but has a turnover with 8:53 left in the period. Air Force has a good clear and Erik Smith’s shot at 8:29 goes to the back of the net. Air Force now leads 5-3 on the assisted goal. Price takes the face off against Roe. Roe takes the face off and his wing Sophomore Conor Barr gets to the ground ball. Stags offense works the perimeter of the Air Force defense. Sperry passes to McLinden. McLinden’s shot is in the Air Force goal. Fairfield cuts the lead to 5-4 on the assisted goal with 6:59 left in the first half. Smith now returns to the face off circle to take on Roe. Officials call a violation on Roe. Falcons’ ball. Air Force takes it time setting up on offense and trying to find an opening in the Stags defense. Smith takes a shot at 5:13 quickly followed up by Christopher Allen’s shot at 5:15 that Murphy saves. Stags clear the ball and sets up its offense. After working the ball around the Air Force defense, Senior Alex Cramer takes a shot that Dadiego saves. He starts the clear. The Falcons get the ball into the box and call time out with 4:05 left in the second period. Falcons’ restart. After about minute on attack, Dreyer takes a shot that goes wide. Falcons have a turnover with 2:20 left in the first half. Fairfield’s clear is successful. With little over a minute to go in the half, Neubuarer’s shot at 1:15 is blocked. McLinden gets the rebound ground ball. Sperry takes the ball behind the cage and he scores unassisted. The game is tied at 5-5 with 57 seconds left in the first half. Price faces off against Roe. Price wins the draw and gets to the ground ball. Price fires a quick shot that Murphy saves with 49 seconds left in the half. Air Force gets the rebound and with 11 seconds left in the period, Smith fires a wide shot. Stags clear is not successful. Falcon’s Cassady gets the ground ball as the period ends. Fairfield and Air Force share the lead at 5-5 at halftime.
Third period is about to begin and Air Force makes the expected change at goalkeeper. Doug Gouchoe is now between the pipes for the Falcons. Erik Smith comes to the X to battle Roe for the face off. Erik Smith takes the face off and gets to the ground ball. Falcons’ offense sets up and Crampton takes a shot goes wide at 14:14. Falcons retain the ball. Air Force’s Allen shot at 13:32 finds the back of the net. Falcons now lead 6-5 on the unassisted goal. Now Price takes the face off for Air Force against Roe. Roe wins this face off and Fleming on the wing gets to the ground ball. Stags work their offensive set. A shot by McLinden at 11:40 is blocked but he gets to the ground ball. Stags reset the offense. Warden takes a shot that Gouchoe saves. He gets to the rebound ground ball and starts the clear at the 11:00 mark of the period. Air Force’s Crampton takes shot that goes wide. Falcons keep the ball and Austin Smith takes a shot at 9:17 that hits twine. Air Force now leads 7-5 on the unassisted goal. Erik Smith comes out to take the face off against Roe. Roe wins the draw and gets the ground ball. Stags have a turnover at 8:34 and Falcons clear the zone. Air Force takes their time. Erik Smith shot at 7:33 goes wide. Falcons’ backup and Allen gets his second goal of the game at 6:57. The unassisted goal pushes the Air Force lead to 8-5. Price is at the face off circle ready to take on Roe. Price takes the draw and gets the ground ball. Eric Smith’s shot at 6:01 goes wide. Falcons keep the ball but have a turnover. Murphy gets the resulting ground ball and he starts the clear. Fleming takes a shot that Gouche saves. The teams race to the end line on the rebound. Falcons are awarded the ball. Fleming flicks the ball away and the officials call a delay of game penalty on Fleming. He sits for a 30 seconds on the penalty and Air Force gets the ball at midfield. Air Force’s man up unit starts the offensive set at 4:52. Erik Smith’s EMO shot at 4:23 is wide. Stags kill the penalty but Air Force still has the ball. McKee’s shot hits the post! Stags get the ball back and start their clear. Fleming takes a quick shot at 3:14 that Gouchoe saves. Fleming gets the rebound ground ball. Stags offense looks for the good shot but have a turnover at 2:47. Falcons clear and are in no rush to take a shot. It is not until 48 seconds left in the period that the Falcons’ McKee takes a shot that is blocked. Air Force has a turnover on the ground ball. Fairfield clears into the offensive zone. Warden takes a shot with 9 seconds showing on the clock that Gouche saves. He starts the clear. Period ends with Air Force in the lead by an 8-5 score.
Fourth quarter is ready to start. Can the Stags mount a comeback? Coach Andy Copelan tells his team they need to score the first goal. Then momentum will be on their side. Roe takes on Erik Smith at the face off circle. Roe wins the face off and the ground ball. Stags go on the attack and are shooting. First Sperry takes a shot at 14:18 that goes wide. McLinden gets the rebound ground ball and passes it to Neubauer. Neubauer shot also goes wide. Stags back up and retain possession. Neubauer has a shot blocked at the 13:49 mark. Stags keep the ball but quickly Air Force’s Matt Puleo gets a caused turnover. Gouchoe gets to the ground ball. He starts the clear with 13:17 remaining in the game. Air Force’s Marcus Walker takes a fast shot that Murphy saves. He starts the clear but it fails. Air Force’s Crampton takes a shot with 12:34 showing on the clock. Murphy makes the save. Neubauer grabs the rebound and he starts the clear. Stags clear is successful. Warden finds a seam and takes a shot but Gouchoe makes a save with 11:55 left in the game. Freshman Jake Knostman gets the ground ball and immediately takes a shot. Gouchoe gets the save but gives up the rebound. Warden gets the rebound ground ball. Knostman has another shot with 11:20 left in the game that is blocked. Fairfield keeps the ball and flag is thrown by the officials. With 10:46 remaining Air Force’s Puleo gets one minute for the slash. Stags man up unit comes on the field. The EMO team works the ball around quickly. Warden finds a seam and scores unassisted at 10:23. Fairfield cut the Air Force lead to 8-6. Price and Roe take the face off. Roe wins the face off and his wing Barr gets to the ground ball. Fairfield is unable to get the ball into the box so the ball goes to Air Force. Air Force’s clear is good and their offense sets up. Falcons are taking their time in their offensive set with a two goal lead they are in no rush. Dreyer takes a shot at 8:39 that goes wide. Falcons back up and on the restart, McKee passes to Dreyer. Dreyer scores on the assist with 8:31 remaining in the game to push the lead back to three goals. Score is now 9-6. Roe again faces off against Price. Roe takes the draw and gets the ground ball. Stags offense sets up, looking for the seam. Official call a push with possession on Air Force’s Carr to give the Stags a 30 second man up chance. Stags man up team comes back on the field. They work the defensive box and Air Force kills the penalty. Fairfield continues on offense. Sperry has the ball on the side of the cage. He makes a “sick” move on his defender and fires a shot that seemingly has no chance past the Falcon’s net minder. Sperry’s unassisted goal at 7:08 remaining cuts the Air Force lead to 9-7. Air Force now sends out Erik Smith to take the face off against Roe. Officials call a violation on Roe giving the ball to Air Force. Again the Falcons offense sets up with no urgency to go to the goal. Falcons Erik Smith takes a shot at 6:21 that goes wide. Stags clear into the offensive box when Coach Copelan calls a time out with 6:11 left in the game. He sets up his offense and rallies his team. Fairfield comes out on the restart with shooting the ball on their minds. First Sperry takes a shot that goes wide. Then McLinden follows up with a wide shot. Stags retain the ball. Sperry again takes a shot that goes wide. McLinden tracks down the wide shot and immediately goes to the cage. He is pushed into the crease and he shoots the ball into the net. Flags are down. Officials rule goal is good and the push technical foul gets waived off. The unassisted goal at 5:25 makes it a 9-8 game. Erik Smith and Roe continue their battle at the X. Smith wins the face off and his wing Kyle O’Brien gets the ground ball. Stags’ Barr gets a quick caused turnover but McKee wins the ground ball. Air Force calls time out with 5:01 remaining in the game. Falcons restart with their offense taking time off the clock. After working the offensive set for almost 90 seconds, Kyle Cassady takes a shot that goes wide. Falcons keep the ball and then Crampton’s shot is saved by Murphy. Air Force gets the rebound and Cassady takes a shot that goes wide. With 3 minutes left in the game, Falcons have a turnover. Stags effort to clear is unsuccessful and the Falcons get the ball into the offensive zone. Air Force calls it second time out of the half with 2:29 showing on the game clock. Falcons restart but have a turnover at 1:44. Fairfield moves into the offensive box. Cramer takes shot that Gouchoe saves and he gets the ground ball with 1:12 left in the game. Air Force clears and after a quick shot that goes wide, Coach Copelan uses his second time out. Stags defense comes out aggressively on defense, doubling the ball. Murphy is roaming the field as a seventh defender. Neubauer gets a caused turnover with 54 seconds left in the game. Stags offense looks for the one last chance to tie the game. Warden fires a great shot with 9 seconds left in the game bottom left corner but Gouchoe gets his foot on the ball and makes the save. Ball flies all over the box but the horn sounds ending the game. Falcons win the game 9-8. Air Force takes the ECAC Lacrosse League Championship for the first time and is the league’s automatic qualifier for the NCAA Tournament. This will be Air Force’s first time in the NCAA Tournament since 1998.
Air Force took 41 shots versus 34 shots for Fairfield. Murphy had seven saves and the Air Force goalkeepers combine for 11 saves with 8 saves coming in the second half. Stags won the ground ball battle taking 30 gbs and the Falcons scooped up 20 gbs. Both teams had only eight turnovers. The officials called two violations in the second half against Fairfield and no violations for the Air Force. Air Force won 10 of 21 face offs and Fairfield had 11 wins of the 21 face offs. Air Force clears were 13 for 13 versus 12 of 16 for the Stags. Falcons converted on one of three extra man chances versus Fairfield converting on one of two chances.
Stars of the Game-Juniors Colin McLinden and Tristan Sperry were the offensive leaders for the Stags in the game. McLinden had two goals, one assist and five ground balls. Sperry scored two goals, one assist and one ground ball. Senior Eric Warden finished the day with two goals including one man up score and one ground ball. Senior Michael Roe took 11 of 19 face offs, seven ground balls and scored a goal.
Other Notable Achievements-Junior Bryan Barry scored the Stags first goal of the game off a ground ball from the face off. Barry had in addition one ground ball. Sophomore TJ Neubuaer had four ground balls and one caused turnover. Freshman Dave Fleming scooped up three ground balls. Frosh Jake Knostman got to two ground balls and had one caused turnover. Sophomore Conor Barr grabbed two ground balls. Senior Goalkeeper Jack Murphy had seven saves and three ground balls.
Heartbreaker!!! To come so far and so close. Team fought back from a deficit and fought to the bitter end. Everyone contributed. The defense shut down the ECAC’s Offensive Player of the Year, Murphy was all over the field and made great saves, the faceoff unit won the day and scored two goals, and the offense took great shots including the one with 9 seconds left that the Falcons’ goal keeper made a great save. Finally but not the least, Coach Andy Copelan and his staff lead the team to an incredible 2014 season and giving this team the tools and heart to keep fighting till the very last second in the Air Force game. Thank you 2014 Team and Coaches!!! Roger Yergeau ’73