The Monmouth University field hockey team kicked off Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play this past Saturday in Fairfield, Connecticut defeating the Fairfield Stags 2-1 on University Field. The win was MU’s first conference opener victory since 2013, improving their record to 1-0 in MAAC play and 4-9 overall.
After a 4-3 overtime victory over the Stags in 2014, the stakes had only grown higher. For three prior seasons the programs have competed, but this year Fairfield officially entered the MAAC conference. Saturday’s contest was the Hawks’ first victory over Fairfield since 2007.
“It was important to get the road win, but more importantly was starting the league schedule on the right foot,” said Head Coach Carli Figlio. “The defensive side of the field was really strong throughout and it really was a team effort and something we can really build on. We are excited for next week to continue to get better and elevate our level of play.”
The Blue and White struck first in the 23rd minute when sophomore defender Rachel Konowal carried the ball up the left side and connected with senior midfielder Cori Allen. Allen deflected it from the far post and netted her sixth goal of the season.
Both Allen and Konowal adjusted to new positions on the field this week. Allen moved up to the forward line while Konowal slid into Allen’s position at high center back.
“It was not hard to adjust to playing the high center back, it was just a position up from where I was,” laughed Konowal, “It was an easy transition from watching Cori play there so I just tried to emulate how she played the position but I was getting more comfortable at practice this week.”
It was not until the 56th minute that Fairfield caught the Hawks on their heels to tie it up. Freshman forward Ruth Smalbraak collected a loose ball in the MU defensive circle and found the goal, netting her second of the season.
The Blue and White responded in the end of the second half to seal the victory. Konowal and Allen connected again in a two versus one with stags junior goalkeeper Caitlyn Bennett. Allen’s tip past Bennett was her second of the day.
With time winding down Fairfield drew an offensive corner. Time expired as the Hawks’ defensive unit sealed the victory. Sophomore goalkeeper Christen Piersanti stepped to clear the ball out of MU territory. Piersanti kept out eight Fairfield opportunities in her 13th start in cage.
The Hawks’ defense faced 11 Fairfield corners and 16 shots to MU’s seven. In addition to MU’s four recorded defensive saves in the past five games, it was a defensive victory at the expense of the MU defensive unit and junior midfielder Alyssa Ercolino’s save.
Allen’s second goal on the day marks her third game-winning goal of the year and second multi-goal performance.
“Scoring first was important but it was a close game the entire time,” said Allen. “We knew we had to put another in to win because they had their opportunities, but we were able take advantage of our chances. Being home, having home field advantage, and playing those skilled, emotional teams coming in the next two weeks…it’s great we will be at home. We will have the support of our fans, families and friends and it certainly is a comfort factor playing on our turf.”
Dual assister, Konowal hit a career high of four points on the win and earned her first ever multi-assist game. Piersanti earned her fifth win of the season, improving her record to 5-1 in MAAC regular season games. The Hawks are now 6-3 under Figlio in conference openers.
The Blue and White return home to face conference and in-state rival Rider University at noon Sunday, October 18 on So Sweet A Cat Field.
PHOTO COURTESY of Monmouth Athletics