The Fairfield volleyball team won the final three sets in their match last Saturday against Iona, defeating the Gaels 3-2 and improving their winning streak to four straight matches.
The Stags got down early in the first set, but with Iona on set point, Fairfield mounted a mini rally and tied the score at 24 apiece. Both teams traded points before Iona eventually pulled away to take the set 29-27.
In the second set, Fairfield turned the tables, this time going up by three and within striking distance of taking the set. But the Gaels rallied to tie the score, and again the teams traded points before Iona took advantage of Fairfield’s 12 attack errors in the set to win the set, 26-24.
“I think it was our mental errors as opposed to anything else … at pretty inopportune moments,” said Kara Reis ‘13, who finished the match with 34 digs, tying the Fairfield single match record. “And I think that’s what made us lose the energy that we had in the next three [sets].”
Head Coach Alija Pittenger saw her team as being too “cautious” in the first two sets. “We’re the type of team that makes a lot of errors, but on top of that we get a lot of kills, so we can’t let those errors get us down, because then it’s a rough gameplan.”
“I told them [during halftime]that they have to fight, and not worry so much about messing up, because it gets into their heads. Sometimes when they make an error, then they’re concerned about making another error on top of it.”
With their backs up against the wall in the third set, the Stags jumped out to an early 8-2 lead. Iona did rally to bring the score within two, but Fairfield rebounded to win 25-21. The fourth set started off even, but with the help of a 9-2 run, the Stags took charge of the set for another 25-21 victory.
With momentum on their side, the Stags cruised to win the fifth and final set 15-5, as the Fairfield defense only allowed for two Iona kills.
“We really had to win this game, and I think that just had me driving and pushing myself,” said Brianna Dixion ’13, who led the Stags in kills with 19 and had a season high 17 digs. “This is a game I knew we could win and it all comes down to mental errors … When we came out [from halftime], we came out a lot harder.
“The last time we played them, we got killed in three sets, and it was all on mental errors. … Today we saw ourselves going down that same path, and we said ‘No, this isn’t going to happen again, we’re ending it right now.'”
Pittenger called the game “ugly,” but was proud of her team for fighting throughout the match.
“There were definitely times when they could’ve given up, but they decided not to. They did a great job fighting through that.”
This is the first time this season that Fairfield has comeback from a 2-0 deficit to win the match. Earlier this season, the Stags lost to Canisius 3-2 after gaining a 2-0 advantage. Last season, the team came back from the same deficit twice, against Siena and Canisius, both on the road.
“It’s hard losing the first two, and then finding the drive and the fight to win the next three, and it’s something that our team has and we do really well,” said Reis. “We rely on each other if we need to, and we can pick each other up and make each other play harder, which is a huge reason we were able to come back and win in five [sets].”
Three other Stags in addition to Dixion had double-doubles on the afternoon. Junior Rachel Romansky had her fifth consecutive double-double, giving her 14 total on the season, posting 45 assists and 11 digs. Sophomore Carsen Mata had her first double-double of her career, with a career-high 19 assists along with 15 digs, and Nicole Marzik ’16 had 11 kills and 10 digs for her second double-double on the year.
The win brings Fairfield’s record to 16-8 on the season, featuring an 11-3 mark in conference. The Stags are currently tied with Niagara and Canisius for first place in the MAAC, and will host both teams next weekend, Nov. 10 and 11peni, for a shot at sole possession of first place.
Fairfield plays their final four games of the regular season at home, as Rider University comes to Alumni Hall this Saturday at 2 p.m., and Loyola comes this Sunday at 2 p.m. as well.