It was destined to be a season jam packed with magic, excitement and energy. But throughout the long and grueling 2010 Fairfield women’s volleyball season, the campaign looked as though it was shaping to be a season full of heartbreak, disappointment, and disaster.
Fortunately, the team found the spark that they were searching for throughout their season at a time when it counted the most. They discovered their magic in the place where dreams come true: Disney World.
Although they didn’t fulfill their dream of a championship, they did finish third in the MAAC tournament and gave something the squad could finally cheer about.
“It was a good finish to a rocky season,” head coach Alija Pittenger said. And a rocky season it was.
The third year coach set great expectations for her crew coming into the year.
The Stags were picked to finish second in the MAAC, only one point behind the eventual champions, Niagara.
They only lost one senior from last year and were welcoming back a proven player in Alex Lopez and two promising freshmen.
Early on, it appeared as if Fairfield was going to be the same dominant team as the past, as they opened conference play with five straight wins ‘killing’ longtime rival Siena in the process.
After the squad swept Marist, the team that eliminated them last year, they thought their season was going to be filled with success, however they had some difficulty ahead of them.
They would go on to lose to Iona snapping a 10 match win streak against conference opponents, which at the time was the 13th longest in the nation.
That loss led to two separate three game losing streaks, the first team in seven years to experience this.
Those two losing streaks led to a program worse eight conference losses. Those eight losses led to finishing in fifth, snapping a streak of six-straight MAAC Regular Season Championships.
Pittenger admits that there were some “disappointing parts” to the season but with all the disbelief that the season entailed watching the team come together and actually have something to be happy about was a good finish.
Sophomore libero Kara Reis said, “I think it was how things turned out in the end, us getting third and I think just with the way we played together as a team in Florida I think it made a positive impact on the end of the season.”
The Stags volleyball program has always been known as a dominant MAAC team.
They entered the previous six tournaments as the number one seed with high expectations, big promise, and high hope.
However those six years failed to bring home the trophy as the teams failed to play up to their immense potential.
With all the disappointment in this season, they entered the 2010 MAAC Tournament with little expectations, no promise, and no hope.
Even though they were not the heavy favorites heading into the MAAC tournament, they still performed beyond their expectations. They played their best of the season.
Reis said, “We played our hearts out. I think we had a team high and I think we all showed up.”
The team defeated the Manhattan Jaspers, who handed Fairfield its worst regular season loss. The Jaspers who were a tough opponent against the now two time defending champions Niagara did not pose a threat for the Stags.
To finish the year the Stags beat Canisius who topped them twice in the regular season.
The team “came out and played with energy and intensity,” Pittenger said.
After statistically one of the worst seasons in program history, the team might actually be able to use this to improve next season.
“We need to play with the same fire we ended the year on,” Reis said. The team will lose three seniors but are returning their most vital pieces of the puzzle.
The Stags will also try to ‘connect’ these pieces. Sophomore Brianna Dixion will return after her second consecutive All MAAC Second team selection and is the team leader in kills.
Libero Kara Reis will also have another season under her belt. Through her first two years she has accumulated 905 career digs and is on pace of breaking the Fairfield record currently held by Lindsey Lee with 1674.
One of the biggest surprises of the year was freshmen setter Rachel Romansky. She was a highly touted prospect coming and looks to be one of the corner stones for the team next year.
“I’m looking forward to next year,” Pittenger said. The returning players plus four new freshmen minus the year of heartbreak might equal a year that is full of excitement.
This disappointing year can help serve as a driving force to train harder so that next year’s team can strive to fulfill a goal that hasn’t been completed in seven years: a MAAC tournament championship title.