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The all-time winningest head coach in Fairfield women’s soccer history, Jim O’ Brien begins his 12th season at the helm of the Stags. Over the past decade leading the Stags, O’Brien has been a part of 110 wins and has hoisted the MAAC Championship trophy twice (2005 and 2008).
The key to O’Brien’s success at Fairfield has been the shutdown defense, which the Stags emphasize. O’Brien, who was a former standout goalkeeper in his collegiate days, has helped the Stags become one of the toughest teams to score on in the region. Fairfield has held opponents to under one goal per match in four of the last five seasons and are recording a 0.99 goals against average under O’Brien. It is that stout defense that has helped the Stags reach four MAAC Championship Finals, including competing in two of the last three seasons.
More proof to the defensive prowess of the Stags in recent years can be shown with the individual awards that several student-athletes have been honored with over the years. Allison Walsh, Kelly Boudreau, and Emma Pichl each earned the MAAC Defensive Player of the Year award, marking three-straight seasons a Stag was named the best defensive player in the conference. Under his tutelage, two goalkeepers broke defensive records for the Stags, with Kathleen Early graduating with the best GAA among any Fairfield goalkeeper (0.75), breaking the record set by her predecessor Kelly Boudreau (0.89).
Another motto that the Stags have been built on is ‘protect your home field,’ and the Stags have made the newly redesigned Lessing Field a fortress in the last few years. During the 2012-2014 campaigns, the Stags built a 20-match unbeaten streak at home, besting the previous program record by five matches. The 20-games was one shy of entering the top-25 longest streak in NCAA history. During that three season stretch, the Stags were 19-2-2 on their home pitch, including an historic win in 2014 against Stony Brook, a victory that gave O’Brien his 97th win at Fairfield, a new program record.
O'Brien has helped develop numerous athletes who have called Fairfield home, including coaching two freshmen, Nicole Cavallaro and Casey Frobey to the MAAC Rookie of the Year awards. In 2007, Cavallaro was one of the top-ranked athletes in the NCAA in assists as she dished out a program record 16 in her freshman season. Most recently, rookie Jenny Jacobs became the first Stag in history to win a National weekly award when she was named the NSCAA National Player of the Week after netting a hat trick in 2015.
All total, O’Brien has coached 35 All-MAAC athletes (17 on the All-MAAC First Team), but that success is not only on the field. The program has seen 57 different athletes earning All-MAAC Academic team honors, including 15 in 2014 and 2015, the most in the conference. The Stags have earned eight NSCAA Academic Awards for maintaining a team GPA over 3.00.
O’Brien comes to Fairfield after starting the women’s soccer program at his alma mater Southern Connecticut State. O’Brien led the Owls to 105 wins, a national ranking as high as seventh nationally, and an NCAA Tournament berth.
O’Brien has earned a regional Coach of the Year twice in his career, winning the Northeast Regional Coach of the Year in 2000 and 2008. He also received the 2000 Northeast-10 and 2008 MAAC Coach of the Year award.
As a goalkeeper at Southern Connecticut State, O’Brien posted a 35-7-1 record with 17 shutouts and leading his squad to the 1982 NCAA Championship game.
O’Brien now resides at his home in North Haven, Conn., with his wife Francine. He has three children: Corey, Julia (a graduate of Fairfield University), and Aedan.