One day after clinching a share of the regular season title and the top seed in the upcoming Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championship, the Stags looked to gain sole position atop the MAAC as they hosted the Iona Gaels on Sunday, Nov. 15. After dropping the first set of the match to the Gaels, Fairfield bounced back by winning the next three to take home the 3-1 match victory. “It wasn’t our best volleyball, but we came out and we got the win, which is important. But I think moving forward we all know that we have to play better volleyball in order to win a conference championship up in Albany,” said Megan O’Sullivan ‘17 of Sunday’s win.
Fairfield came out of the gate slow, trailing by two early. Iona would take advantage that they were up early and began to knock down shots left and right to increase their lead to eight, 16-8. The Stags would wake up and battle back to cut down the lead to four behind five early kills by O’Sullivan ‘17 and four digs off the hands of Megan Theiller ‘18. Fairfield’s effort wasn’t enough as they dropped the first set 25-20.
“We want to be fighting on every single point and our effort wasn’t good enough in that first set. We obviously had to pick it up and play Fairfield volleyball and I don’t know if we ever did in the first set,” said head coach Todd Kress of his team’s effort in the first.
The second set of the match was a different story for Iona as they struggled to knock down shots as Fairfield woke up to play. With the score at 8-6, Iona would remain with six for a while as the Stags would score six straight points, making the lead 14-6.
After knocking just one shot in the first set, Akinola Oyinkansola ‘19 emerged to connect on five kills in the second, helping the Stags increase their lead and eventually pick up the 25-14 set victory to tie the match 1-1, holding Iona to under 40 percent from the field. “I thought we had them out of the system from the end line. I thought we were better in transition in our reset I thought that we got the ball to our middles in transition, which opened up Megan and Akinola,” said Kress of the team’s play in the second set.
Once again, the Stags jumped out to an early lead over the Gaels breaking the game open as Fairfield led 19-10. The third set of the match saw seven kills from Theiller and four kills from Skyler Day ’18. Fairfield would take care of Iona easily with a set score of 25-15 to give them the 2-1 lead in the match.
The fourth and final set of the match saw balanced scoring off Theiller, Day, O’Sullivan and Oyinkansola. With a seven-point lead, it seemed as if the Stags had an easy win, but Iona would fight once again to cut the lead down to four, 24-20. However, Fairfield would add the finishing touches to pick up the match victory 3-1 with a final set score of 25-20. “We have a lot of passion and a lot of fight, not a lot of teams can lose the first one and have the will to fight and come back. Our team as a whole has come a long way from that. In the beginning of the season we lost that first match and threw it in the bag and called it a day. That says a lot about our passion as a team,” said O’Sullivan of her team winning three straight.
O’Sullivan continued her strong play as she finished tied with a game-high of 14 kills alongside Day. O’Sullivan was effective on both sides of the court as she had a hand in six of Fairfield’s 10 blocks. Theiller finished the game with a 13 kills and 16 digs for her fifth consecutive double-double. Oyinkansola added 12 kills while hitting a career-best .429.
With Sunday’s win, the Stags stand alone atop the MAAC standings with a record of 14-4 in conference play, 19-9 overall. The Stags finished the season winning 10 consecutive games as they finished with an 11-2 record at Alumni Hall. With the MAAC Championship set for Nov. 20-22 at Siena’s Alumni Recreation Center, Fairfield earned a bye to Saturday’s semifinal round as they wait for the lowest advancing seed which can be either Niagara or the winner of the matchup between Manhattan and Rider.