The students and parents filed in and sat in the cold vacant benches of Alumni Hall.
A buzz drew over the crowd as the back and forth match reached its high point.
The music of the band echoed in the hollowed walls of the dome. For the first time since last year, the fans sat and watched a sporting event at Alumni Hall.
The Fairfield women’s volleyball team competed in its first home game since November 15 of last year.
It has been 10 months and 10 days, but the dominant varsity team was back in action on Saturday.
Head coach Ajila Pittinger enjoys playing on campus. She said, “You got to love playing at Alumni, the place is awesome, the band is great, the fans are really loud and it really helps us.”
Over the past four years the Stags have marveled in home-court advantage going 50-1 against their conference opponents inside the confines of Alumni.
The Stags have won six-straight regular season crowns. The squad has tallied up three championships in their historic MAAC program.
Since their first year, Fairfield has been a MAAC Volleyball powerhouse.
A big reason for their recent past success is their former middle blocker Katie Mann.
She was one of the best players to ever put on a Fairfield volleyball uniform, ranking first all-time in blocks and hitting percentage while also ranking third all-time in kills. She became the Stag’s ‘Super-Mann.’
“She was definitely someone we looked to every time we needed a kill,” Pittinger said.
The third year head coach saw the superstar shine through her historic stay here but knows the program has to move on and needs a total team effort, “instead of being replaced by one person I think we’re looking to everybody on the team.”
The Stags have these pieces in place to improve on their heart-breaking upset at the hands of the Marist Red Foxes in last year’s MAAC semifinals.
Red shirted junior, Alex Lopez returns to the lineup in a different role this season.
The former outside hitter suffered an injury that ended her season before it even started. Through her career she has been known as a perennial offensive option. She must now rely on her defense being the team’s new libero.
“She has always had great ball control,” Pittinger said. The Colorado native is a former All-MAAC Second team selection and has amassed 375 kills in her four years.
She is joined by two other new comers for the 2010 season, including fellow Rockies native, Rachel Romansky.
The freshman setter has enjoyed early success already placing sixth on the team in kills. Combine that with her 425 assists and the Stags might have found a promising four-year starter.
The near impossible task of trying to replace the most successful middle blocker in school history lies with Hailey Moyer. The first year player has displayed some of the skills that show why she is starting so early into her collegiate career. “They’ve been a huge part of the team and I don’t think you can ask for more,” Pittinger said.
This is a new team with a different feel. They struggled early in the year falling to a 1-9 record before starting MAAC play.
The goal for this team, that was picked to finish second in the MAAC, is to get better and continue to improve throughout the season.
The thrilling win over Manhattan is a prime example. “Earlier in the season, I’m not sure we would have necessarily pulled out that fifth set,” Pittinger said. They improved to a 4-0 conference record and have only dropped two total sets in those games.
The coach believes that this team seems to develop more confidence when playing the familiar opponents.
With the progressive play of this promising team, Saturday was the first chapter to a magical story at Alumni Hall.