(Photo Courtesy of Fairfield Athletics)
Welcome to the Fall Snapshot series. Throughout the fall I will be taking an early look at all 75 DI men’s college lacrosse teams and giving a snapshot of where each is heading into the 2023 season.
Head Coach: Andrew Baxter (Fourth Season, 2020-Current)
Fairfield 2022 Record: 7-7 (2-3 CAA)
Key Departures: Taylor Strough (A), Mike Drake (M), Frankie Labetti (FO)
Key Returners: Jack McKenna (A/M), Zack Antoniou (D), Braeden Lynch (D), Colin Consoli (G)
Fairfield is coming off a 2022 campaign in which it went 7-7 overall and 2-3 in CAA play. The Stags ended the season on a two-game losing streak that included a two-goal (14-12) loss to the Delaware Blue Hens. The Stags scored wins over Hofstra and UMass in league play.
One key aspect of Fairfield’s success last season was how much young talent contributed. From McKenna at the attack spot to Zack Antoniou serving as a strong close defensemen, freshman made impacts all over the field last season for Fairfield. The same was true of sophomores, which included goalie Colin Consoli who started each of the first five games of the season.
Heading into the 2023 season and the fifth year of the Andrew Baxter era, Fairfield will be looking to take another step in the right direction and make another push towards getting back to the postseason. And they will do so in a newer looking CAA with UMass gone but Stony Brook, Monmouth, and Hampton now in the fold.
Who Takes Over at The Faceoff Dot?
Frankie Labetti returned for a fifth season ahead of last spring and went 181-for-341 (53%) at the dot as the primary option at the dot for the Stags for a fourth season. Now, with Labetti having exhausted his eligibility the Stags will be looking to find a replacement at the dot.
The Stags will be turning towards a faceoff room that features three returners who saw action last season as young players.
Ryan Hamburger went 29-for-68 (42.6%) as a sophomore last season as the secondary option at the dot. Tim Lucky (5-13) and Dylan Smith (2-7) each saw limited action and return as a sophomore and junior.
How Does The Defense Progress?
I mentioned the youthness of this Fairfield squad last season in the opening. Nowhere was that youth more visible than on defense where the Stags started a freshman and sophomore at close, saw a sophomore start a good chunk of the season in cage. Two of the Stags’ best short-stick defensive midfielders were a freshman and sophomore, as well.
Freshman Zak Antoniou was the headliner of the Fairfield defense as the Tampa, Fla., native grabbed 23 ground balls and caused a team-high 19 turnovers. Sophomore Braeden Lynch also started all 14 games at close and grabbed 44 ground balls while causing 17 turnovers. Matt Rice (19GB/8CT) and Luke Okupski (11GB/6CT) served as the Stags’ top two SSDMs as a freshman and sophomore. Colin Consoli (40 saves, 42/1%) anchored things in cage for the first five games of the season.
With as much youth as this defense saw led the way in 2022, it should be expected that this unit – and that young talent in particular – takes a step forward in 2023.
Where Will The Danes Fall in the America East Pecking Order?
In 2023, the CAA will look different with UMass gone and Stony Brook joining, along with Monmouth and Hampton.
Since making the CAA title game in 2016, Fairfield has been near the bottom of the conference. The Stags finished sixth in the league in 2018 and 2019, and fifth in 2021. Last season, the Stags tied for fourth in the league, which marked the program’s best finish in the last five full seasons.
The CAA always provides some craziness. And while Delaware still looks to be the class of the conference, can Fairfield punch further into that middle tier and get back to the postseason for the first time since that 2016 season?
Potential Breakout Player
Per the Lacrosse Bucket Recruiting Database, Fairfield brings in a 13-man freshman class.
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