With their loss to USC in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Fairfield volleyball’s season has come to an end.
Just don’t expect to see many frowns from this group—it knows it has accomplished too much to look back on the season with any regrets.
“Anytime you win the championship, you’re not going to go back and change anything,” said Head Coach Alija Pittenger, “and it’s awesome for Kara [Reis], Steph [Cruz], and Bri [Dixion] to come through with a championship at the end like that. They all worked really hard this season … and they had to earn it this year too.”
For Kara Reis ’13, the season could not have been more of a fairy tale if Walt Disney himself had written it. “Literally, I joke that the world must be ending, because nothing has ever, ever been this perfect,” said Reis.
After three years of “so close, yet so far” seasons, Fairfield finally broke through to go to their first NCAA Tournament in over a decade. That in and of itself was a dream come true for Reis. Then she gets to play her final collegiate games just two hours from her hometown, and in front of her family and friends?
Sounds like a deal even Cinderella would be jealous of.
“It could not have been any more perfect for my parents to see my final game of my entire career of volleyball. It was too perfect,” said Reis.
But she is not the only one who had a dream way of ending the season. Fellow senior Brianna Dixion is also from Southern California, growing up only a short drive from the campus of USC, and was able to play in front of her entire family.
Juniors Haley Moyer and Rachel Romansky, who is from Colorado, were able to play in front of their families for the final time this season. Sophomore Camille Coffey was able to have the team over for a pregame meal at her house, cooking a full Mexican meal, something that the players from that area rarely get here on the East Coast.
“We’ve been though a lot together, and we’ve asked a lot from them for the past four years, and every time they tried to do what we asked of them, and that’s all we can ask for from the senior group,” said Pittenger.
The actual game played against USC did not go as well as the rest of the trip, as USC showed why they have made 22 consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament, winning in three sets rather handily. But it was the experience that mattered the most to the players.
“You get to see what Division 1 volleyball is all about,” said Reis. “I knew the volleyball [at USC’s level] was good, and I’ve watched it and witnessed it on TV, but you don’t know the extent of how good it actually is until you’re playing the team, in that stadium. It was a complete out-of-body experience. Half the time I was just checking myself to make sure I was in the game.”
The tale of what this team, and what this group of seniors, accomplished will be remembered for quite some time in Fairfield’s volleyball circle.
“I absolutely adore this program. Everyone in the athletic department, they couldn’t be any more helpful than they’ve already been to me for four years,” said Reis. “I couldn’t ask for better coaches, and it’s just been an amazing experience.”
For Pittenger, she doesn’t want the group that is coming back next season to forget the experience they had this year. “I want them to remember how hard it was, and how hard they worked,” said Pittenger. “It’s even harder to defend the championship than it is to win it the first time … I think they’re going to have to work even harder next year, but I think they all know that, and are excited about it.”
After a season where the team and some individual players have made their mark to be remembered and commemorated in the rafters of Alumni Hall for all time, the future looks very promising for this group of Stags. And for the ones leaving, they can leave with their heads held high, knowing that they get to do something very few athletes ever get the chance to do: walk out as champions.