The last time the Fairfield volleyball found themselves down two sets to none on their home floor, they pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in program history to claim their first MAAC Championship title since 2002.
Last Thursday, they found out that history would not repeat itself just yet.
Playing on their home court for the first time since defeating Siena in the MAAC Tournament finals, the Stags lost 3-0 to the University of Missouri Tigers on Thursday at Alumni Hall.
“Missouri’s a really good team, I think they’re the best team that we’ve played against so far,” said head coach Alija Pittenger.
“I was disappointed we didn’t fight back a little bit more. We played some tough teams over the weekend, and got progressively better, and I would’ve liked to see what we did over the [past] weekend translate more to this match.”
The game began in the Stags’ favor, as they got on the board first thanks to a kill from Caitlin Stapleton ‘15. The Tigers then went on a 4-0 run immediately after, but the Stags were able to battle back and had the game tied at seven apiece.
That would be as close as Fairfield would get in that first set, as Missouri would continue building their lead for the rest of the set, eventually winning by nine, 25-16.
The second set started out very much the same for Fairfield, as the Stags got the first point of the set once again, this time on a kill by Marilyn Peizer off a blocking error by Missouri’s Carly Kan.
This time Fairfield would not hang around nearly as long, as they soon found themselves in a 7-3 deficit. The closest the Stags would come in this set would be trailing 12-8, but Missouri gained all momentum when they went on to score 10 of the next 11 points. The Tigers won the second set handily, 25-11.
“I want to see our mental focus be better, because I think that was one of the main problems we had today,” said Pittenger after the game.
Fairfield kept the game closer in the third set, as they trailed by just two points, 14-12. However, Missouri had an answer for everything, as it seemed all afternoon long, and went on to score seven of the next eight points en route to clinching the set and the game, 25-17.
“Today was interesting. I think we were a little scared to be honest; they’re a big team,” said Rachel Romansky ’14, the team captain for this year. “I think we could’ve played a lot better than we did, I think we were back on our heels the whole time. It was hard.”
“I like playing the good teams. I think it pushes us. It points out a lot of the things we need to fix,” said Pittenger regarding the team’s tough schedule to start the season so far.
“I think it makes a statement with the team also, to show them what we need to work on and the things they sometimes take for granted, where they need to push themselves. As long as we can learn something from losing like this, I’m happy with that,” Pittenger said.
Statistically, Michigan State transfer Hadley Orr ’16 tied with Peizer for the most kills on the team with eight each, but Orr also struggled at times with the tough Missouri defense, and had eight errors to lead the team as well. Romansky also struggled at times, as she had just 24 assists in the game, which is lowing considering she averaged over 30 assists per game last season.
The loss kept Fairfield winless for the season, as they fell to 0-4 at the time, following earlier losses to the quality opponents they played in the Utah Classic, including Utah, Utah State, and Northern Iowa.
Despite the tough start to the year, Romansky was happier with her and the team’s performance in Utah than on Thursday against the Tigers.
“We fought every point. They were big girls just like [Missouri],” said Romansky about their previous games out west. “We didn’t fight today, and I think that’s what we were missing — we had that desire, the heart to win [in previous games], and that’s what we were missing today.”
Since the home opener, the Stags have won two of their three matches up in the Boston College Invitational. Their loss to the hosting Eagles team was sandwiched between wins over Bryant and Hampton, winning both those games in straight sets, 3-0. Fairfield’s record now stands at 2-5.
Fairfield plays Colgate this Friday in the LIU Brooklyn Blackbird Tournament, with their next home game to come at the end of the month against the last team to fall at Alumni Hall: the Siena Saints.