The Fairfield University Women’s Volleyball team (10-9, 6-5 MAAC) hosted Rider University (9-12, 8-4 MAAC) in a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference matchup on Oct. 20.
Over 400 fans filled the stands at Alumni Hall during Alumni and Family Weekend to cheer on the Stags, who disappointingly fell to the Broncs 3-0.
Rider had the opening serve of the set and ultimately beat their adversaries to be earliest on the board.
The first point for Rider was earned when Caprice Clarke and Meredith Pellegrino blocked an attack error by Fairfield. Junior Stag Sonja Radulovic answered back immediately with a kill to even the score.
Rider asserted their dominance again, but pending another kill from Fairfield’s Luci Albertson ‘21, Radulovic got the serve and her team tallied a three point streak. This offered Fairfield a two point lead.
A Fairfield error ultimately ended the scoring streak and Rider was back within a single point. Two kills, one from No. 4 Albertson and another from No. 13 Mayda Garcia ‘20, added two more to the board for our Stags.
The score was 6-4, back in favor of Fairfield. The set continued as the teams alternated leads. The score evened out 12 times in this set, proving that the victory belonged to whoever wanted to work hardest for it. When Fairfield and Rider tied at 21, RU gained momentum that Fairfield University could not catch up with.
Fairfield head coach Todd Kress and assistant coach Julia Anderson called the first timeout of the game when they were down 23-21 with the hope to re-strategize and return to claim the first set.
Unfortunately, Rider finished up the rest of the set with two kills, an attack error by Fairfield and a service ace.
The final score was 25-21, Broncs. We seemed to kick off the game with fairly even strength, but our faults lay majorly in careless errors as well as lack of communication on the court.
Fairfield tallied 11 errors in the first 25 points of the game while Rider only had eight. This contributed to the Stags’ setback, and they needed to collect themselves before the second set.
The second set commenced and Fairfield setter Alexis Rich ‘22 had the first serve. A kill from Rider’s Caprice Clark earned her team the first point of the match yet again. Fairfield scored three points in a row and was answered by another three points for Rider; two of which were kills. The score was now 5-4, in favor of Rider. Again, Rider gained momentum and identified their competitors’ weaknesses. They added six more points to the board, further digging our Stags deeper.
Half of these were faults on Fairfield’s part, as they were comprised of two attack errors and one ball handling error. The score was 14-9 and our Stags had a 5 point gap to fill. Fairfield never edged their way back into gaining a lead, and their morale was visibly deteriorating. Fairfield had three errors this set; ⅓ of the 9 that Rider totaled.
The final score was 25-19 Rider. The stands surrounding George Bisacca Court still roared with a crowd hopeful for a Fairfield win in the third set. The atmosphere was tense as the third match commenced. If Fairfield did not amp up their game and claim this match as theirs, their chance at redemption would be lost.
Rider returned to the court flaunting their swagger. They took the first point, as they had the previous two matches, and then the four points after that. Fairfield finally recorded a point, following Bronc Anilee Sher’s service error, which put them back into contention.
Not once in the entire set did Fairfield take the lead, and they only had 34 total attempts kept into play by the opposition. In comparison to the first two sets, where our Stags had 38 and 40 respectively. This was indicative of their fading stamina. Eventually, Rider dominated our home team and finished the game early by declaring all of the three sets played. The final score was 25-19, and Fairfield returned to the locker rooms.
Although the Stags are seeded higher that the Broncs in the MAAC, they were unable to cooperate this weekend and pull out a win. Fairfield racked up 25 errors in the three sets while Rider only had 17.
This contributed largely to their defeat. In a postgame interview, when Kress was asked which positives and negatives can be taken from the game, he expressed his displeasure with the loss, but said, “Luci Albertson would be a positive from today, I think she played really well offensively and did a nice job at the net, blocking, working pin to pin and she just continues to work her tail off and is getting better and better as a sophomore.”
Albertson’s praise is well deserved, warranted by her 12 kills in the match. This is one less than her career high in a single game.
Kress added that, “There are a lot of things we need to work on but I think the biggest part would be the intangible part [which is the] fight. We are not fighting offensively, we are not fighting in coverage, we are not fighting on the block.”
His constructive criticism offers hope to our Stag fans that, if this element is improved upon, we may be able to have a team as successful as past groups. Kress is the winningest coach in program history and has led our FUWVB team to three consecutive MAAC Championships in the past three years. Kress’ valuable input in conjunction with his unparalleled talent off the court is only as effective as his players’ work is on the court.
Radulovic registered six kills, one ace and one block in the three sets. Radulovic commented on how she and her teammates plan on bouncing back from the loss.
She placed a large emphasis on the hard work produced in practice and said, “We showed steps in the right direction [in practice], so we just need to work in implementing that in the game. I think we know what we need to do and today we just didn’t come out and show that- what we’ve been working on all week.”
She is on the same page as her coach and agrees that, “The energy and fight wasn’t there, and when people aren’t executing, that’s really what’s going to hold us together.”
Finally, the outside hitter emphasized that there was still time before the MAAC tournament to figure things out and improve. She expressed absolute faith in her team and the fact that they will move past this loss. This concluded Fairfield’s 31 win streak for home games over MAAC competitors, which included non-conference and postseason matchups.
They have six games to redeem themselves until the MAAC tournament in Orlando, Fla. on Thursday, Nov. 15.