After a 0-3 start, there wasn't much optimism surrounding Fairfield. But three consecutive wins in the Colonial Athletic Association and No. 12 Towson's stunning 10-7 loss to Delaware on Saturday has opened the door for the Stags to capture the regular-season championship and home-field advantage in the conference tournament, which awards the automatic NCAA tournament qualifier to the winner.
"It definitely motivated us," said Fairfield senior midfielder T.J. Neubauer, a Glen Arms resident and Loyola Blakefield graduate. "… We're just really excited. At the beginning of the season, we were in kind of a dark place as a team. We were 1-4 and we were like, 'Where is this season going?' We've turned it around and after winning our first three games in the conference and hearing about the Towson loss, it added to our confidence. I think we're about as confident a team as we can be right now."
Saturday's game between the Stags (7-6 overall and 3-0 in the league) and the Tigers (10-2, 2-1) at Johnny Unitas Stadium in Towson at 12 p.m. looms large for the entire conference.
If Fairfield wins and Delaware loses to Drexel, the Stags will clinch the top seed and host the CAA tournament. If the Tigers win, they will remain in the hunt for the top seed and home-field advantage, and will own a head-to-head tiebreaker over Fairfield.
"Every game is an opportunity and every game is a challenge, but this one poses a significant challenge," Towson coach Shawn Nadelen said Tuesday. "Can we regroup? Can we get back to playing the way we know how from start to finish? That's something we know we have not been able to do this year. We've had games where we've been very strong from start to finish, but have had lapses or we've had games of ups and downs and not playing very consistently. I think that's the focus."
The Tigers nipped the Stags, 8-7, in Fairfield, Conn., last season, and Neubauer said the players have not forgotten about that loss heading into Saturday's showdown.
"We've got to treat it like a championship game," he said. "… It's just a huge game overall. It's their Senior Day. So we know they're going to come out ready to play. We're excited about it, and we're ready to go."
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