(Photo Courtesy of Fairfield Athletics)
Andrew Baxter came to Fairfield as one of the most sought-after assistant coaches in the nation. After all, he had just helped lead Yale to a national title in 2018 and an NCAA title game appearance in 2019 as the Elis’ defensive coordinator, leading one of the fiercest defenses in the nation.
Baxter’s arrival was filled with hope that he could turn this program back around towards a place where they were competing for CAA titles. However, the chance for a turnaround of that nature just hasn’t been there over the first two seasons of the Baxter era, due to no fault of anyone.
In 2020, Fairfield went 5-2 before things were shut down. And this past year in 2021, the Stags went 2-9 (0-8 CAA) against a weird CAA-heavy schedule.
On top of a porous record, the Stags struggled mightily defensively once again. Fairfield ranked 61st nationally (bottom five) in scoring defense, allowing 15.27 goals per game game. However, they did rank in the middle of the road in man-down defense (31st) as they came up successful on 68% of such opportunities.
Coming into the 2022 season, Fairfield will see their first normal season with Baxter at the helm and with that things could start to turn around. But improvement, especially on the defensive end, will need to be seen for any such feat to be fully accomplished. And with as much youth as this team has on both ends, the ceiling could be fairly high over the next few seasons for the Stags.
Fairfield’s top returning pole is Braden Lynch (17GB/6CT), who played in 10 games with two starts at close late in the season as a freshman a year ago. Junior Jon Wheat (9GB/6CT) has played mostly as an LSM but saw one start at close last season and is the Stags’ second top-returning pole. Dean Ford (15GB/3CT), who was voted a captain, and Ryan Lancaster (9GB/4CT) return as the top two SSDMs for this Stags defense and should be one of the strong points of this unit again in 2022.
In cage, sophomore Colin Consoli returns after a strong freshman campaign last spring in which he made 148 saves with a .478% save percentage. If the guys out in front of him can improve and be better than what this unit had last season, there is no reason to believe that Consoli can continue to trend upwards as one of the better goalkeepers in the CAA.
On the opposite end of the field things were a bit different last season as Fairfield had a pretty solid defense, putting up 11.45 goals per game last season as the nation’s 29th-best scoring offense. However, much of that talent is gone off last year’s offense, including leading scorer Dylan Beckwith.
Trent Moran (8G/2), who was voted a team captain, is the top returning point-getter for this Fairfield after being their fifth-leading scorer a year ago. Additionally, the aforementioned Lancaster can make an impact as a two-way player once again. Patrick Drake (6G/3A) played in just five games last season due to injury and Bryce Ford, who is a captain and sat out last season due to injury, are expected to be impact players and leaders on this offense.
At the faceoff dot, Dylan Smith is their top returner following the graduation of Frankie Labetti. He went 54-for-118 (.458%) as the backup a year ago. With him likely to step into that starting role, those numbers should only go up and if so, that will benefit this team as a whole on both ends.