Stags volleyball has been MAAC champion for the past two seasons. Can they make it three?

Stags volleyball has been MAAC champion for the past two seasons. Can they make it three?

Will it be another historic autumn for the Fairfield University volleyball team — Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Champions for the past two seasons?

Well, don’t bet against it. The Stags have the core of their championship team returning this fall with a nice mix of upperclassmen and young players on the rise.

Last year was a remarkable season for the Stags. In addition to finishing 18-0 in the MAAC regular season and then winning the MAAC Championship, the Stags had a 22-match winning streak, the longest such stretch in the nation last season.

Fairfield’s season ended at Michigan State — ranked 15th in the nation — in the NCAA Championship first round, concluding with a record of 28-6.

To get a picture of just how advanced Fairfield volleyball has become, the Stags have won 31 consecutive matches against MAAC foes dating back to 2015, the third-longest active conference winning streak in the nation entering the 2017 campaign.

“Last season was a record breaking season for our program,” said Head Coach Todd Kress, who is 162-73 at Fairfield and 396-268 in 21 seasons as a Division I head coach. This fall will mark his fourth season of his second term on the Fairfield sidelines and his eighth campaign overall with the Stags.

“That being said, there is still a lot of growth ahead for this program.” He added that his team will focus on simply getting better each day. “So, where many might find it exciting to talk about a three-peat, I guarantee you it will not be discussed within the inner circle of our program.”

Kress was named MAAC Coach of the Year for a conference-record fifth time, and also took home ECAC Coach of the Year honors.
We think a lot of our success comes from two things,” offered Co-captain Megan Theiller ’18. “First, our hard work, and secondly the strong bond we have as a team. We are all very close on and off the court.”

She said the team works “extremely hard,” adding, “we pride ourselves on being a strong team off the court in terms of academics and our involvement in the University community. It is our attention to detail in all aspects of the word ‘student-athlete’ that really contributes to our overall success as a program.”

Skyler Day ’18 — the MAAC Player of the Year —  agreed with her teammate concerning the team’s winning chemistry.

“The close knit bond amongst this team is like no other. We are not only teammates but above all else friends. We support each other in all aspects of life and that truly benefits us when it comes to blending and working as a unit on the court.”

Sydney Buckley ’18 pointed to the all-around importance of being a student-athlete at Fairfield. “We are lucky enough to be given the opportunity to excel not only in the classroom but also on the volleyball court. Various academic services along with a large support group from the Athletics Department contributes to our success in both areas, allowing us to become well-rounded individuals.”

Kress, who is ably assisted by Coach Caitlin Stapleton, said, yes, his team works hard, but is also “committed to bigger and better things.”
He added, “We have a group that works towards a common goal and is not concerned with whom gets the credit. Everyone in this program makes great sacrifices to be a part of it and we focus on putting the program and team first.”

Kress said the foundation of the program was built back in the 1990s, and that the first championship team in 1997 established a firm footing that has been passed on each year “and has led us to where we are today. The team that I coach today is a very special unit, but they wouldn’t be where they are today without the foundation built back in the 1990s.”

Kress has a simple but obviously highly effective coaching philosophy. “I’ve always strived to get the most out of every day. The work you put in each day will lead to results tomorrow. Don’t expect a different result unless your equation changes.”

When he is on the recruiting trail, Kress looks for “overachievers,” young women who excel both in the classroom and on the court. “Those who understand the Jesuit mission statement and prepare themselves for greatness. I’m blessed to be surrounded by overachieving, selfless student-athletes. The rest falls into place.”

Kress has been to “many” college campuses over the years and he believes Fairfield ranks near the top of any list.

“There are so many places on campus where you can get away to reflect. I think the safety aspect on campus and the community is a huge piece of the puzzle. And, you have great tradition in a number of our female programs, and student-athletes want to be a part of that tradition.”

Theiller said for her and her teammates, Fairfield was a great fit for them when they considered what college to attend “because it allowed us to compete at a high level while also getting a great education.” She added, “Fairfield seemed to have the perfect balance between the two, which is often hard to find.”

No one in the Fairfield women’s volleyball program is predicting a MAAC three-peat. But don’t be surprised if that’s just what happens when the leaves turn colors and start to fall to the ground.

The team will play Boston College, Providence College and Loyola Chicago among other teams in pre-season play. Their MAAC season opens September 16 at Iona. ●F