The Fairfield University women’s volleyball team made it nearly to the end of the regular season slate without a single loss, until they faced the Quinnipiac University Bobcats in Hamden, Conn. for a pair of games on March 28.
On an eight game win streak, the Stags took on the Bobcats with a thirst to uphold that undefeated record, and the odds looked like they could do it after Sunday afternoon’s first match where the Stags came out on top, 3-2. Unfortunately in their final match of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular season schedule, the Bobcats upended the Stags, 2-3.
Quinnipiac took the first set, 25-15, leaving Fairfield to answer back in the second. Fairfield answered back with an equalizer with a 25-22 win. Quinnipiac continued the flip-flop trend taking the lead once again, 25-20. Finally Fairfield caught up in the fourth set with a massive 25-16 win, and they would continue that momentum into the fifth and final set where they blew the Bobcats out of the water with a 15-9 defeat, putting the Stags in a good place headed into the second game later that day. Leading the attack that afternoon was outside hitter Emily Schillinger ‘22 who broke her own career record, with 18 hits to the match . Behind her in kills were seniors Kaylie Butts with 14 and Luci Albertson with 13 of her own. Rookie Simone Tyson put on a remarkable performance with her first double double as a Stag (18 digs, 12 kills), while graduate student Manuela Nicolini amassed 50 assists and 16 digs, flexing her extensive experience on the team. Meanwhile, Georgia Via ‘24 was a defensive dynamo who registered 30 digs (just two below her career-high set on March 14 at Iona College), plus six assists. Tyson and Via weren’t the only first-year students to make a significant impact on the court. Ella Gardiner ‘24 set a new personal best in blocks with eight to the match.
Unlike the trend that the first game seemed to follow, the Stags took off later in the day claiming the first two sets making it look easy (25-17, 25-18). The third set started with Quinnipiac beating Fairfield to the board, claiming the first three points, two of which were collected off of attack errors from the Stags. It was clear that Quinnipiac was the stronger team this frame, but Fairfield still had the upper hand going into the fourth set.
The Stags and Bobcats were neck and neck for the first seven points, but took off with five consecutive points to give them their first lead of the fourth, 12-9. Quinnipiac held on until the end, though, and managed to reach 25 before Fairfield to tie the game, two sets apiece. Holding Fairfield afloat was Morgan Doll ‘23 who tallied 21 kills and 18 digs that night. Via came back later in the day as a libero, with 27 digs to lead the charge for the Stags. Honorable mentions also go to Alexis Rich ‘22 reaching the double digits in two categories, with 56 assists and 10 digs. Tyson showed no signs of stopping with a second double-double (13 kills, 15 digs) to finish off the day full of competition.
Regardless of the disappointing loss, the 9-1 record on the season was enough for Fairfield to notch their nineteenth MAAC Regular Season Championship in the past 25 seasons, according to FairfieldStags.com. This accomplishment can be added to the list of accolades that head coach Todd Kress has, as his eighth MAAC Regular Season Championship title with the Stags. His past conference recognition in this category were in the years 1996, 1997, 1998, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2019 and now in the spring of 2021, making this the Stags’ second consecutive regular-season MAAC title.
Now is time to look past what has unfolded during the regular season, and the Stags must look ahead to the 2020-2021 MAAC Championship Tournament. It is scheduled to last from Thursday, April 1 to Saturday, April 3 in Albany, NY and will be streamed on ESPN+.
The Stags will go into the tournament with the top spot as the number one seed, but will need to fight seven other conference competition for the title of MAAC Champions.
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