In 2015, Fairfield’s women’s athletics were the big winners on and off the field

In 2015, Fairfield’s women’s athletics were the big winners on and off the field

The success Fairfield University’s women’s sports programs enjoyed in 2015 was remarkable.

There’s no other word that aptly sums up four Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) championships, the winning of the Commissioner’s Cup for the entire program’s success across all sports, dozens of scholarly accolades and remarkable won-lost records that any college or university would be thrilled to boast about.

The Stags’ women’s softball, lacrosse, field hockey and volleyball teams all reigned supreme in the highly competitive MAAC and made trips to the National College Athletic Association (NCAA) national tournaments.

A number of individuals, not only on these on-title teams but other women’s sports programs as well, received awards — including All-Conference and MAAC Tournament most valuable player plaudits.

“The University community takes great pride in the accomplishments of our student-athletes,” Director of Athletics Gene Doris said. “Their hard work and dedication to excellence translates into championships on the field and the court. I know that our alumni, parents and fans are excited by this success and that they share our sense of pride.”

Volleyball’s Head Coach Todd Kress believes the stunning success of 2015 speaks to the level of support the athletic programs receive from the University in the way of scholarship dollars and other areas of funding.

“I also think it shows we have very determined and goal-oriented female student-athletes that are doing incredible work both on the competition field and in the classroom. Fairfield provides the opportunity to recruit high-level student-athletes nationally. Our roster is comprised of student-athletes from the Midwest, West Coast, Southwest and Northeast. Being able to attract student-athletes from all parts of the country is a big part of our success.”

The Fairfield University softball team won the MAAC tournament title and advanced to the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history. The second-seeded Stags used their bats to win the tournament, averaging eight runs and nearly 11 hits per game. In the championship game, Fairfield surpassed those totals, with an 11-5 victory using 19 hits in a win over Monmouth.

Lauren Filicia ’16 earned a spot on the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) All-Northeast Region First Team. The outfielder added another entry on her list of postseason awards, which already included the MAAC Defensive Player of the Year and All-MAAC First Team member.

Nine softball players were named to the NFCA Scholar-Athlete team for their efforts in the classroom during the 2014-15 academic year. The honor was presented to players who have achieved a GPA of 3.50 or higher. Recipients included Kristen Ball ’18, Shelby Butwell ’16, Nicole Capra ’16, Gianna Kinhofer ’17, Brianna Levick ’15, Angelina McGuire ’18, Lauren Petersen ’18, Tori Reed ’17 and Rachel Sieber ’18.

The Fairfield field hockey team spent the previous seven seasons in the America East Conference and made the move to the MAAC before the 2015 campaign. It was a memorable inaugural season, as the Stags played a tough non-conference schedule that included hosting national powers Delaware and Michigan in September. The Stags finished the regular season with an overall record of 7-9 and earned the fourth seed in the MAAC Tournament. In the finals, Fairfield battled second-seeded Quinnipiac and shut the Bobcats out, 2-0, to advance to the NCAA Tournament. Sophomore defender Erin Buckley ’18 was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player and was joined on the MAAC All-Championship Team by teammates Ann Burgoyne ’17, Caitlin Bennett ’17 and Julie de Paeuw ’17.

The second-seeded Fairfield University women’s lacrosse team won the 2015 MAAC title, by posting a 9-7 victory over top-seeded host Canisius in the Conference tournament final. It was Fairfield’s first MAAC Championship title since 2009.

Chelsey Sidaras ’16 was named to the ECAC Division I Women’s Lacrosse All-Star Second Team (ECAC is an umbrella organization to which the MAAC belongs). Sidaras is the first Stag in program history to receive the honor.

The Fairfield women’s volleyball team won the 2015 MAAC tournament title as the tourney’s top seed — knocking off Manhattan in the semifinals and Marist in the championship match. Megan Theiller ’18 was named the Most Outstanding Player of the MAAC Championship. Skyler Day ’18, and Megan O’Sullivan ’17, who were both tabbed as First Team All-MAAC, joined Theiller on the All-Championship Team. Oyinkansola Akinola ’19 was named to the MAAC All-Rookie Team for her performance during the regular season, and Head Coach Todd Kress earned his Conference-record fourth MAAC Coach of the Year Award.

The Fairfield women’s golf team took the ECAC title, while Jackie Schofield ’17 collected individual honors. The women’s team, which repeated as ECAC champ, was led by Schofield’s two-round score 149, and the Stags took the top three spots at the event to run away from St. Francis Brooklyn by 69 points.

In basketball, Fairfield guard Kristin Schatzlein ’16, and redshirt forward Casey Smith ’17, were both selected to the women’s basketball All-MAAC Third Team. On the women’s soccer team, Karolyn Collins ’16 was an All-MAAC Second Team selection and 15 student-athletes on the squad were named to the MAAC All-Academic Team, the highest number in the conference.

In what seemed a fitting accolade given the success across the board, Fairfield University earned the 2014-15 MAAC Commissioner’s Cup for women’s athletics, which is awarded annually as a symbol of overall excellence in the championship sports conducted within the Conference. It marks the eighth time that Fairfield athletics won the women’s Commissioner’s Cup, with the last coming after the 2008-09 season. The Stags program has also won the overall Commissioner’s Cup four times and the men’s Commissioner’s Cup three times.

The women’s cross country, golf and tennis teams received the NCAA Public Recognition Award last May by achieving an Academic Progress Rate (APR) that ranked among the top 10 percent in their respective sport. The APR is an annual scorecard of academic achievement calculated for all Division I sports teams nationally.

Head softball coach Julie Brzezinski attributes the success of the women’s programs in 2015 to the University’s commitment to landing solid student-athletes as well. “Well-balanced athletes understand the work ethic needed both on and off of the playing field.”

“I think the female athletes who attend Fairfield get it,” she continued. “They understand the demands and sacrifices needed to be successful on the field and in the classroom. Their academics will carry them, but their time management skills and work ethic on the field will help them succeed in life after college.”

Brzezinski said when high school or potential college transfer recruits see that numerous programs made it to the NCAA Regionals, “it’s huge.” She added, “Any exposure we get outside of the MAAC helps us nationally. Having success in 2015 even helped us within the Division I ranks. More universities invited us to attend their elite tourneys early in the spring. They want successful programs to play in their tourneys. This in turn, gives us more exposure to more parts of the country.”

Victory at Fairfield, of course, goes beyond the field. “The success our players have in the classroom outweighs any success they have on the playing field. Some 70 percent of our students have GPAs of 3.0 or higher. Our young ladies are overachievers.”

Laura Field, head lacrosse coach, said, “When a young lady walks on the field, any field at Fairfield, the team is at least contending for a championship,” she said. “When we talk with high school girls who want to be successful in college, we can tell them that they will have the chance to win a league championship, get to the NCAA tournament and acquire a great Jesuit education. That is an amazing combination.”

And, judging by the results, that is no overstatement.

LEADERS IN ACADEMICS AND IN SERVICE

The significant success enjoyed recently on the field, court and other sporting arenas by the Fairfield University women’s sports teams has been mirrored by student-athlete success in the classroom.

During the 2014-15 winter, spring 2015 and fall 2015, a total of 83 young women earned Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) All-Academic honors (meaning the athletes maintained a minimum 3.2 GPA over two semesters). The breakdown was basketball (two), cross country (five), field hockey (six), golf (two), lacrosse (14), rowing (14), soccer (15), softball (seven), swimming and diving (12), tennis (three) and volleyball (three).

In addition, 115 female student-athletes were named to the MAAC Academic Honor Roll during the 2014-15 seasons, and 14 members of the field hockey team were named to the America East Honor Roll. The breakdown for the honors were basketball (eight), cross country (five), golf (six), lacrosse (17), rowing (15), soccer (23), softball (13), swimming and diving (13), tennis (seven) and volleyball (eight).

Three teams — cross country, golf and tennis — received 2014-15 NCAA Public Recognition Award for being in the top 10 percent in the nation in the Academic Progress Rate in their respective sports.

Katherine Pitz ’15, a rowing student-athlete and School of Engineering student, received the Fairfield University William J. Kramer ’60 Humanitarian Award in recognition for her work in the community, both locally and internationally. Pitz was recognized for her commitment to volunteerism, which included two trips to build water chlorinating systems on a college campus in Bolivia, and starting the first Engineers Without Borders program at Fairfield. She also helped with establishing renewable energy projects during her stay in Bolivia.