Katie Mann will look to finish out her final season strong. (Peter Caty/The Mirror)

Katie Mann will look to finish out her final season strong. (Peter Caty/The Mirror)

Nine straight wins. A secure place atop the conference standings. An impressive 3-1 win merely 48 hours earlier. All signs pointed to head coach Alija Pittenger being overly pleased with her team prior to Tuesday afternoon.

But if history has taught this program anything lately, it’s that complacency kills, and a strong regular season means nothing come November.
As such, Pittenger stressed that, despite recent success and the team’s 3-1 victory over Manhattan this Sunday, the Stags still have miles to go before they can consider themselves the conference’s premier squad.

“Overall, I don’t think we really competed as well as we could have this week,” Pittenger said. “I think a lot of that is why we lost to Siena (on Saturday night). I think we really need to work harder.”

Much of Pittenger’s conclusion stems from the team’s disappointing 3-1 setback to Siena, the team’s biggest Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) rival, on Saturday night in Albany. Siena entered the game losers of seven of their previous eleven games. Conversely, the Stags rode a nine-game win streak, which tied a program best, and appeared as if they were playing the were peaking at just the right time.

But Siena, which desperately needed to assert itself in arguably its most important match of the season, played with an added sense of urgency and made an early statement. The Saints stole the first set, 26-24, and then cruised to a 25-18 win in the second set to take a demanding lead in the match. From there, they never looked back.

“It’s hard to give an explanation, really,” Pittenger said. “We thought we’d show up and come to work for every point. But, in this league and against a team like Siena, if you’re not working hard and trying to earn every little thing… You’ve got to be prepared.”

To the team’s credit, the Stags bounced back with a convincing 3-1 win over Manhattan. Not only did the team show resiliency after dropping the first set to the Jaspers, but they also received an added boost from senior Katie Mann. Mann, who finished with a game-high 18 kills, surpassed Lindsay Lee for third place on the program’s all-time kills list.

Still, with a much-improved MAAC and their biggest games still to come, Pittenger is far from satisfied with a 15-11 start.

“We’ve got a tough schedule ahead of us,” Pittenger said. “We go down to Loyola for a very difficult game, and then come back a day later to play a tough St. Peter’s team that can  have a really good day. We don’t have much room to breathe. But we just have to go out and work. (We have) a lot of tough practices ahead of us… a lot of hard work.

“We have to want it as bad as anyone else in this league. We’ll show we want it as bad as they do,” Pittenger added.

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