A championship-winning season came to an end last Thursday for the Fairfield University women’s volleyball team, as they fell in three sets to 13th-ranked Purdue University in the first round of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Volleyball Tournament.

The Stags were led by outside hitter Svenja Rodenbüsch ‘25, who had a team-high eight kills in the losing effort. 

The match began in what was a hotly contested first set, with Fairfield facing just a 17-15 deficit thanks in large part to Rodenbüsch putting down seven of her eight kills early. From then on, however, the Boilermakers would go on a 7-0 run, eventually closing the set out with a final score of 25-17.

“I thought we held our own,” said libero Kyla Berg ‘24. “In the first set, we came out hard with our offense and defense, but our passing broke down at the end of the set.”

Berg, who had nine digs in the contest, spearheaded an impressive backline defensive effort for the Stags, which kept them in just about every point through the match despite slightly wider margins of victory for the Boilermakers in sets two and three.

Ultimately though, the efforts of Purdue standouts Eva Hudson and Chloe Chicoine, with 16 and 15 kills respectively, proved too much to overcome.

“We don’t see [Purdue’s] type of speed in our conference, so it was difficult to defend and attack against them,” Berg said.

Regardless, the match was a competitive affair that showed how the Stags were able to claim both the regular season and tournament title in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC).

Finishing with a 22-6 record last month prior to the loss to Purdue, Fairfield became the winner of five straight regular-season crowns, as well as six of the last nine conference tournament titles. It did so in spite of significant turnover in the program from last year, including seven new additions on the court and the hiring of new head coach Nancy Somera.

“We came into this season with half a new team, a whole new coaching staff, and a new facility,” Berg said. “Being able to succeed with so much change has been a highlight of this season.”

Stags both new and old had career years on the court. Outside hitters Allie Elliott ‘26 and Mikayla Haut ‘25 were both named all-conference first-team selections, with setter Blakely Montgomery ‘25 and middle blocker Maya Walker ‘26 joining the honor roll on the second team. Newcomer Mamie Krubally ‘27 was also selected to the conference rookie team.

Berg, the longest-tenured player on the roster, collected four “MAAC Libero of the Week” awards over the course of the season and passed 1,000 career digs in an Oct. 11 contest against Iona.

Despite all the individual accolades, though, it was as a team that the Stags developed their winning formula. Six different hitters on the team tallied over 100 kills on the season, led by Haut with 264.

“We had to find our way as individuals and as a group,” Coach Somera said in a press release after the team’s conference championship. “We’re not standing here today without all 14 players buying in completely and working their tails off from Day One.”

For Berg, who played the final game of her collegiate career against the Boilermakers in her home state of Indiana, it’s the team dynamic that means the most.

“We came together and decided that we were going to do our jobs and accomplish great things together,” she said. “I am incredibly proud of our team.”

The championship banner hanging in the rafters of Mahoney Arena will cement the legacy for the 2023 women’s volleyball team for years to come.

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