Head Coach Alija Pittenger insisted that Friday night’s match against Siena was like any other match.

Pittenger’s words turned out to be prophetic, as the Saints suffered a similar fate as every other MAAC opponent the Stags have played this season.

The Stags’ 3-2 victory this past Friday night against Siena, last season’s conference champions, extended volleyball’s season-high winning streak. Two days later, a 3-0 win against Loyola, the Stags sixth shutout in only eight MAAC games, stretched the streak to eight consecutive games, which is tied for the team’s ninth-best start in program history.

The win moves the Stags’ record to 10-9′ on the season, with an 8-0 conference record.
Fairfield now sits alone atop the MAAC standings, and is currently the only team in the conference that remains undefeated.

In addition, the streak is one game shy of last year’s mark of nine consecutive wins. Last year, though, Fairfield dropped its MAAC opener to Siena in a 3-2 loss in Albany, N.Y.

Pittenger, though, made it a point to praise the team’s attitude rather than its recent successes.

‘Against Siena, we [had] to be ready to play,’ Pittenger said. ‘It’s just a mindset. It’s kind of the attitude we’ve taken in all our games so far.’

The match against the Saints was nothing short of an average match, though.

Siena and Fairfield exchanged sets in the first two series of the game, with the Saints edging Fairfield 25-22 in the first set and the Stags returning the favor by the same score in the second.

Fairfield responded to the change in momentum with a dominant showing in the game’s third set, taking the series by a score of 25-12. At one point in the set, Fairfield outscored Siena by a 10-2 margin.

Siena, though, responded in kind with an equally impressive fourth set, spurred by a 6-0 run early in the exchange.

‘I think they are a team that is used to winning,’ said Pittenger of the Saints’ resiliency. ‘They’ve had a lot of success in the past, and, they are [still] a very good team.’

In the fifth and final set, the Stags had to hold back a comeback from the Saints, who went from trailing 10-7 to holding a 13-12 lead and within two points of a crucial conference win.

Fairfield pulled even at 13-13 after a timely kill by sophomore Alex Lopez.

After junior Katie Mann followed that point with an ace on the next point, the Stags secured a 15-13 victory as a hit by Siena’s Kelly Hummel sailed just wide of the end line.

Regardless of the dramatic win, Pittenger was equally as impressed with the team’s dominant 3-0 win over Loyola on Sunday afternoon.

‘Like we’ve said the whole time ‘- [the MAAC] is pretty much anybody’s game,’ Pittenger said.

Pittenger was especially pleased with the efforts of sophomores Hughes and Lopez, both of whom have developed into integral parts of the team’s offense.

In the victory against Siena, Lopez totaled a team-high 14 kills and an impressive 20 digs.

Lopez followed up that effort with nine kills and eleven digs against Loyola on Sunday afternoon.

Hughes’ maturation at outside hitter, though, as been equally as important as her fellow sophomore.

In this past weekend’s matches against Siena and Loyola, Hughes recorded 23 kills.
On the season, she leads the team with 185 kills, and Hughes has recorded ten games of ten-plus kills.

Pittenger claims that early-season work in practice is just beginning to rear its head for a relatively young team.

‘We’ve made a lot of improvements you’ve seen from practice,’ Pittenger said. ‘We’ve seen improvements. The other teams are improving also, so we’ve got to keep it up.’

Following a brief respite, the Stags return to action this weekend with two away matches in the tri-state area, beginning with a Saturday afternoon contest against St. Peter’s.
The Stags finish the weekend with a match against Iona in New Rochelle, N.Y. this coming Sunday.

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