Loud chants and squeaking shoes could be heard miles away from Fairfield University’s RecPlex Field House on Oct. 24, as a tough five sets spanned out of the course of 142 minutes. While the Fairfield Stags put up a strong, exhausting fight against the Canisius College Griffins, their home court advantage wasn’t enough to beat their overwhelmingly energetic and fierce opponents.
The final score came out to a 2-3 loss, the five sets’ box scores were: 23-25, 25-20, 27-25, 23-25 and 14-16. Besides set two, each round ended in only a two point difference every time, showing a perfect example of how touch-and-go each match played out.
This game marked the first conference match loss for our Fairfield Stags this season, their Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference record moving to 12-1 and an overall record to 17-7.
Though a win was not guaranteed for our Stags today, six stand-out players helped contribute to the point successes during each set. The sixth-year senior, Manuela Nicolini, dished out 55 beautiful assists to a powerful defensive line which included Laura Seeger ‘22 (15 kills), Mikayla Haut ‘24 (14 kills), fifth year senior Luci Albertson (11 kills) and Emily Schilinger ‘22 (10 kills). Additionally, Georgia Via ‘22 and Haut took charge of offense, both accounting for 22 digs each.
Earlier this season on Sept. 25, the Stags won against Canisuis in a 3-0 game: 25-21, 25-19, 25-20. When asked about what went differently in this match, Fairfield University volleyball head coach Todd Kress responded, “I didn’t think we had a whole lot of grit [or] purposeful preparedness.”
He further explained the team’s struggle with the initial set of each game this season, sharing that he feels they “test the waters and see where we are at, opposed to coming out and putting out a product.”
In an interview on Oct. 23, Kress mentioned how the team is in their “toughest stretch,” as they finish off their sixth match in 11 days. The constant travel and play is an incredibly tough strain on the body and mental health. After the game against Canisius, the team is luckily given a six day break until their next game. Within the final weeks of the season, the Stags have five more conference matches: three away and two on our home court.
Kress also shared that the key points regarding the team’s previous successes, are the upperclassmen leadership, attributing this season’s wins to players including Manuela Nicolini, Luci Albertson and junior transfer student, Kennedy Johnson. An additional key player includes newcomers like Mikayla Haut.
“You know that’s a sign of a good team is when you’ve got a lot of people contributing from different positions in different years as well,” Kress states.
Another component that prepared the Stags for the 2021 season was their annual 10 week summer training sessions. The strengthening coach, John Begley, aided in conditioning every athlete almost immediately following the Stags 2021 spring season, which was moved from the fall of 2020 due to COVID-19. Within those practices, Kress says that the main focus was and still is “getting 1% better every day and that starts with our purposeful reps in practice.”
Furthermore, an additional change for the volleyball team that is unrelated to the pandemic, is a change in location. While each home game would normally be played in our Alumni Hall, the building is now under renovation and is not projected to be finished until late fall of 2022. This project forces the volleyball team to play in the field house located in the university’s fitness facility.
“Alumni was a special place for our program with so much success there over the year,” Kress shares. “I personally have a lot of memories here and I know our student athletes both past and present [do too]. But I think that the RecPlex has proven to be a nice spot considering the different alternatives we had.”
A Teraflex court was installed by Rec Plex staff in the beginning of the season which provides a huge benefit to student athletes, as it prevents further harm on their body. Additionally, with bleachers surrounding all sides of the court, the amount of people that used to be spread out in Alumni hall are now close together. This provides a more supportive feel which Kress thinks the athletes appreciate.
Todd Kress just recently notched his 250th win at Fairfield, and even though this is a huge accomplishment, he remains humble about future plans for the team.
“I’m not one that looks to the future by any aspect, we just focus on the next day and the tasks at hand and everything else will work itself out,” Kress says.
The Fairfield University’s Women’s Volleyball team will play their next game away versus Quinnipiac University on Oct. 30 at 1:00 p.m.