Contributed by Fairfield Athletic Communications
On Sept. 29, the Fairfield women’s volleyball team sat at 1-3 in conference play, having just lost to Siena, Manhattan and Iona, winning just one set in the latter two games combined.
They were on the verge of following up their magical 2012 season with a subpar season in which the MAAC Tournament would be a far cry, let alone the NCAA Tournament.
Flash forward to the morning of Nov. 10, and the Stags were in first place in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, having rattled off 12 wins in a row since the end of September. Going into Senior Day, where they were set to honor seniors Rachel Romansky and Haley Moyer for their four years of work, hopes were high Fairfield would go into the final weekend of regular season play with all the momentum of a first place team and a 13-game winning streak.
It was not meant to be however, as the visiting Iona Gaels would do something they have not done since 2002: win at Alumni Hall.
“Iona is a good team. We’ve said from the beginning that if they get everything going, they’re going to be good,” said Head Coach Alija Pittenger. “We definitely need to use this to get better … and win those two next weekend so we can play in the tournament.”
After the pregame ceremonies for Moyer and Romansky, Fairfield battled to win the first set, ending off on a 7-1 run. Sophomore Hadley Orr had three of her eleven kills in the first set, her third one igniting the run that gave the set to the Stags.
The second set was again in Fairfield’s favor, but errors later in the set surrendered the lead to Iona, who would tie the game at one set apiece. The third set was more heavily dominated by the Gaels, as the closest Fairfield would come would be tied at eight apiece, after which Iona would cruise to a 25-18 victory, putting Fairfield on the ropes.
With their backs against the wall in the fourth set, the Stags played as well as they did they day before against Manhattan, who they defeated in straight sets in a game that lasted just over an hour. Orr and Marilyn Peizer ’15 had five kills each, and Romansky had 13 of her 50 assists in the fourth, allowing the Stags to rally back and force a fifth set.
In the fifth, it appeared the Stags were going to complete the comeback, jumping out to the early 4-0 lead thanks to two of 14 kills for Moyer. After an Iona timeout, the Gaels regrouped, and would take the final set 15-8, scoring the 14 of the final 17 points.
“There were streaks when we played well, but we take some times off when we lose focus, and we have to be able to play throughout an entire match, and we didn’t really do that today,” said Coach Pittenger.
“They wanted it. This game, for them, meant in the [MAAC] Tournament, or out of the Tournament,” said Peizer, who had her 13th straight game with double digit kills. “We’re going to end up playing them again in the Tournament … so this is good learning experience for us, we can know what they do and when they’re on, how they’re working.”
There were some high points from the day, however, mostly as they team was happy to celebrate the careers of Romansky and Moyer.
“It’s crazy, those two have played so much over the past four years that thinking about them not being here is pretty bazaar,” said Coach Pittenger.” I try not to think about that right now, I’m still thinking about this season. Haley and Rachel have always been huge for our team since they’ve been here. They’ve earned a whole lot of recognition.”
The final two regular season games for the Stags are on the road, as they go to Niagara and Canisius this weekend, looking to secure their second consecutive regular season title. They would need to win both games and have Manhattan lose their remaining game in order to clinch the title outright. If Manhattan wins, they will share the title, and get the top seed in the Tournament based off tie breakers.