Amanda McKelvey/The Mirror

It’s a brand new year and a brand new team.  The Fairfield University women’s volleyball team seems to be improving week-by-week as they extended their winning streak to four matches with the victory over Rider on Sunday.  They evened their overall record to 8-8 and are now 5-1 in the MAAC.

“Everyday we’re trying to get better and I think that it’s really reflecting on the way we’re playing,” said Brianna Dixion ’13.

It might be a young and inexperienced squad with a roster that consists of five freshmen, but the energy on the court is quite familiar to some of the successful teams of the past.

“When you play with people you like and everybody is working hard, everybody is holding each other accountable, that’s what makes you a good team,” Dixion said.

The Stags are coming off a disappointing year that they would like to forget.  They became the first Fairfield volleyball team to finish with a losing record since 2003, and ended with a program worst: eight conference losses.

“This year they’ve been working really hard and they’re trying to find a way to make things work,” fourth year head coach Alija Pittenger said.

The squad has not just gotten contributions from their rookies, but also their veterans.  Brianna Dixion seems to be on the verge of a breakout season, including a career best 22 kills in the win over Rider.  This consistent force is something that the team has been waiting for since her 2009 MAAC Rookie of the Year Award.

“She’s been playing really well.  She’s gotten us a lot of points especially in key times.  We’ve definitely come to rely on her,” Pittenger said.

With such a young team, senior leadership becomes vital.  This year’s class has been trying to lead by example. Seniors Haililani Pokipala and Kendal Dirkin have aided in the team’s recent success.  Pokipala had 24 kills over the weekend while matching a personal best with 22 digs.  Dirkin moved into Fairfield’s top-ten in career blocks with 177.

With the help of the familiar faces, and the addition of a talented freshmen class, this 2011 squad is looking to avenge last year’s disappointing result.  This can be seen through the determination that the Stags have displayed this season.

“I think this year we just consistently work hard.  Even if we’re losing we’re consistently giving 100 percent,” said sophomore setter Rachel Romansky.

The Colorado native  moved into sixth place all-time with 1,732 career assists over the weekend

The players have set high goals for themselves.  2010 was the first time that Fairfield volleyball had not won a regular season championship in six years.  Maybe this new team can bring back the old success of the program.

“If we keep improving everyday like we’ve been doing, I honestly think we can win it this year,” Dixion said.  “And not just by a fluke, but by working hard everyday.”

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