After their most lopsided loss of the year, the Fairfield women’s volleyball team snapped its three match losing streak as they swept the Loyola Greyhounds on Sunday’s senior day.
The three players honored during the pregame ceremony have been a part of several special teams during the last four years. They have helped the Stags to a 58-11 conference record, a MAAC Regular season crown in every season that they have played at Alumni Hall and have cruised into the MAAC tournament.
However, their final year might be their most challenging one. The Stags came into the season with high expectations. They were picked to finish second in the MAAC, only one point less than the defending conference Champions Niagara.
With only one player graduating from last year, Fairfield looked to improve from their semifinal upset. However, that one player was one of the best to ever wear a Fairfield uniform.
Katie Mann ’10 graduated in the top 10 in 10 different categories and left her ‘handprint’ on the program. She led by example and became a true team captain. However, this team still believed that this season could be magical.
They were returning the MAAC Rookie of the Year, welcoming back an injured player who once finished second on the team in kills, adding two new freshmen who have been contributing from the start, and an energetic buzz that filled the crowd at the games.
Who would have thought that this team would have tied the record for the most conference losses in the program’s history?
After their fourth three match losing streak of the season, the win against Loyola might have improved this squad. “I think there’s still some things we can work on, but it was good to see us turn it up a little bit,” third year head coach Alija Pittenger said.
The team dropped the first back-to-back matches at home since the 1992 season and followed with a struggling thrashing at Manhattan. “Our team lost a lot of confidence yesterday and the past few games so I’m glad that we showed ourselves that we can come back and we can win,” red-shirted junior Alex Lopez said.
The Colorado native returned from missing the entire previous season and was molded into a new role. She became a libero in the early part of the season but now has regained her familiar position as outside hitter.
“I got moved around a lot but I’ve always been a defensive specialist so it wasn’t that new but hard hitting is definitely my favorite thing to do so I’m glad I’m hitting again,” she said.
The squad has been struggling to find their new identity and have tried to use different combinations to find one that works. “It’s good to see us come back and fight again,” senior Hannah Segebart said. The transfer has become a role player to add depth to the roster besides her normal job as a setter.
The team has turned towards their familiar faces to try and guide them to a MAAC Championship. Senior Lauren Hughes is the only player of the three that has played for all four years and will no longer run on the hardwood at Alumni.
The California native surpassed the 800 kill plateau this season and is currently third on the team in kills. It was the last time that she will celebrate a win with the Fairfield fight song playing in the background and the crowd clapping along, and she didn’t know how to feel.
“Katie Mann had texted me the night before and she said enjoy it and that was kinda in my head because I had remembered that I’m never going to be here again,” she said.
With the ever important MAAC tournament approaching, everything that the Stags have been working for is coming near. Pittenger said, “I think we just need to be more consistent something we’ve been struggling with all year.”
She says that if the team can make their passing and defense more consistent than it will “make the tournament go a lot smoother.”
When the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex opens its doors for the 2010 MAAC Tournament all the stats will be forgotten. “The tournament you never know what’s going to happen every team comes out fighting for their lives it’s going to be a tough couple of days and we’ve got to be ready to go just like everybody else,” Pittenger said.
Everything they have been striving for in these past few months will come down to a mere couple of days. This team with only contributing players is trying to accomplish something that no superstar athlete has been able to do in almost nine years: win a MAAC Championship.
Alex Lopez knows how important the weekend will be, “I expect to fight the entire time. It’s going to be rough. So just fight.”