The Fairfield University volleyball team (3-4) welcomed over 400 Stags fans to Alumni Hall on Fri. September 19 for their 2019 season home-opener. The Stags faced the Northeastern University Huskies (4-4) on their own George Bisacca Court to kick-off the weekend long Sacred Heart Invitational, claiming the 3-1 win.
Rookie Joelle Battles made waves on the court, posting a career high nineteen kills in four sets. The left-handed right side showed no hesitation in flaunting her skill, and was instrumental in securing the victory for her new team.
Head coach Todd Kress praised the first-year in a post-game interview saying, “Jo led the way hitting .640 on the right side. Those are unbelievable numbers for anybody, let alone a freshman playing in her first home match.”
Already, this group’s cohesive nature makes them a force to be reckoned with. Eleven different players were credited for a point in Friday night’s game, and Mayda Garcia ‘20 highlighted the importance of unified success on the court.
The senior said, “I thought we really played together. We did a really good job at coming together as one and supporting our team to do their job.”
Sophomore Laura Seeger trailed shortly behind with thirteen kills, six of which were in the final set, in addition to a service ace and three blocks.
Garcia and Kaylie Butts ‘21 each registered seven kills, showing leadership from the team’s upperclassmen. Senior Jamie Calandro shined in the back row, contributing eleven of the 52 total digs coming from Fairfield’s side of the net.
The Stags cleaned up the first set 25-17 but faltered in the second, allowing Northeastern to start the scoring. Garcia claimed three consecutive points, declaring Fairfield’s only lead of the second frame. It was anyone’s game when Northeastern took the win in the second set. The opponents went 1-1, forcing the match to four sets.
“We let off the pedal in the second set. We panicked a little. We weren’t aggressive in our headspace,” coach Kress admitted, “I think that we kind of reset that in the third and fourth set.”
In the third, Fairfield edged Northeastern 25-22 and entered the deciding set with the upperhand. Fairfield concluded the night early when Boston’s .131 hitting percentage failed to measure up against Fairfield’s .333, wrapping up the final set 25-15.
Kress commented, “What we did in the fourth, hopefully we carry that momentum into tomorrow morning against NJIT.”
That is just what Stags volleyball did the next day, back on their home court against the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) Highlanders (1-9).
Outside Hitter Sonja Radulovic ‘20 lead the attack with a career-high of nineteen kills, eight of which were dished out in the second set. Sophomore Julia Kallan and Kaylie Butts ‘21 recorded 12 kills and 11 kills respectively. Kallan tacked on fifteen digs to her stellar daytime performance, completing double-double, while libero Morgan Doll ‘23 reached a personal best of nineteen digs.
Following a breezy pair of wins (25-22, 25-16), the home team was surmounted by the Highlanders in the third, losing by a mere three points but they were quick to answer back in the fourth when they beat NJIT 25-16. This improved their record to 4-4 entering a face-off later that day against Connecticut rivals Sacred Heart University.
Fairfield entered the championship match of the three-game tournament thirsty for another win. Battles managed to match her career-high in finishers on Saturday evening, set the night earlier, with another nineteen. This earned her the title of Most Valuable Player at the SHU invitational. Battles was named to the All-Tournament team alongside fellow Stags Manuela Nicolini ’20 and Luci Albertson ‘21. Nicolini coined a double-double, delivering 25 assists and seventeen digs while Albertson posted five kills.
Sacred Heart started strong in the first set, claiming it 25-15, but they failed to catch up once Fairfield pushed back. The second set belonged to the Stags 25-21 while the third was a steady back-and-forth. The Pioneers beat Fairfield to 25 but failed to increase the one-point margin. Two kills from Battles in conjunction with an attack error on Sacred heart pushed the match to 27 points where Fairfield came out triumphant 27-25, with a 2-1 lead.
Match four concluded Fairfield’s onslaught of victories over the weekend when they edged the host 24-20, beating SHU 3-1. Fairfield, now goes 5-4 overall, will officially begin Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play when they travel to Poughkeepsie, NY to challenge the Marist College Red Foxes on Fri. Sept. 20.