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Fairfield's Lindsey Barnes

Concrete Changes After Game 1 Have Fairfield Clicking Weeks Later

April 19, 2024
Charlotte Varnes
Peter McLean / Fairfield Athletics

Fairfield has lost one game this season — its season opener against Holy Cross — and by just one goal.

Coach Laura Field said she only stopped talking about that defeat a week ago.

“We weren’t fully formed in terms of our intensity and intention going into the game,” Field said. “We needed to not just let things come to us and really go out and define who we were.”

With that came concrete changes. The Stags’ defense transitioned from man to zone, and the team began preparing for opponents with greater focus. Now, Fairfield is riding 14 straight wins and has already clinched a share of the MAAC title.

Greatness is nothing new for Fairfield, which went 14-5 and won the MAAC championship in 2023. But the pieces are coming together in a new way this season after years of a “very slow burn,” Field said.

She said the Stags have defeated several opponents this year who they lost to by a goal or two last season, like UConn and Albany. There wasn’t any big overhaul, Field said, but she feels her team is maximizing talent and working together as servant leaders.

The upperclassmen’s leadership was particularly helpful after the loss. Early on, Field said players were deferring to each other and expecting others to lead. Now, everyone has stepped up to lead in a cohesive way.

Since then, the Stags’ defenders have leaned on each other more — a positive change, defender Lindsey Barnes said.

“After that [Holy Cross] game, there was a realization that we needed to come together as a defensive unit and rely on each other and work together to the end goal of winning the game,” Barnes said. “We’ve played together, which I think is a really big difference.”

The approach has been key for Fairfield, which has the country’s No. 4 scoring defense. The Stags have allowed double-digit goals in five of 15 games, often rolling comfortably to wins.

The group stuck together amid the change to zone and can also successfully make changes in-game when necessary, Barnes said. She also credited defensive coordinator Lindsay Epstein for being a “phenomenal resource.” Epstein has prepped the unit well.

Barnes, a fifth-year player, ranks eighth nationally with 3.21 ground balls per game and leads the Stags with 49 ground balls and 27 caused turnovers per game. Field said Barnes has always been a leader for the unit, helping coach younger players and consistently competing.

“She was a great player in our man-to-man,” Field said. “She’s been a phenomenal player in our zone. She’s worked well with whatever’s been thrown at her and the adjustments. She’s supremely coachable.”

The Stags aren’t looking too far ahead, though, but they have their biggest goals in sight: winning the MAAC tournament and advancing in the NCAA tournament.

While Fairfield reigns atop the conference, Field recognizes the importance of defeating their final regular-season opponents: Siena and Rider. Those wins would earn the program a No. 1 seed in the MAAC tournament and hosting rights, having the program well on its way to its biggest goals.

“If you take your foot off the gas pedal for a second, somebody’s going to come and take advantage of that,” Field said. “It’s really fun, the parity in women’s lacrosse right now. It extends all the way down to the MAAC.”