HAMDEN, Conn. – The stands were packed and alive with Bobcat fans on Saturday as they packed Burt Kahn Court for the Quinnipiac women's volleyball team in their 3-1 loss to Fairfield. The raucous environment lifted the Bobcats to a third set victory over reigning MAAC Champion and Preseason favorite Fairfield as they all witnessed history in what was Quinnipiac's first home game ,in any sport, as a member of the MAAC. With the hard-fought loss Quinnipiac falls to 2-10 (0-1 MAAC) while the Stags move to 3-9 (1-0 MAAC) on the year.
"There was a lot of good energy today," said Quinnipiac women's volleyball head coach Kris Czaplinski. "I think we were ready for them but like I said we are young and inexperienced. We need those reps both in games and in practice to get better so once we get back to practice and start getting those reps in we'll be fine."
For the match, the Bobcats dominated on the service line with a 13-2 advantage over Fairfield in service aces and held their own offensively with 38 kills compared to 45 for the Stags. Quinnipiac was led by their reigning MAAC Player of the Week freshman setter Emma Ogden (Crown Point, Ind.) who picked up 33 assists, eight digs, two aces and one kill on the afternoon. The 33 assist performance was her third such match of the year with at least 30 helpers.
Four players benefitted from Ogden's setting starting with freshmen Allison Leigh (Palmer, Alaska) and Katie Urycki (Chesterton, Ind.) each compiled a team-high 10 kills. Leigh also chipped in five blocks (three solo, two assists) to extend her a MAAC-leading season total to 45 and put up a .269 hitting percentage to lead the team. Other key offensive contributors on Saturday were sophomore Chandler Thornton (Arlington, Texas) and freshman Jamie Paolucci (Lake Mary, Fla.) who each put up seven kills. Paolucci was an absolute menace on the service line as she put up a season-high four aces against Fairfield.
The first set opened with the Stags imposing their will from the get-go as they extended their lead to as much as 18-9. Paolucci however, put on a serving clinic in which the Stag defense was not prepared to handle. The Stags had trouble passing the ball forward, allowing the Bobcats to take advantage of some free points. Paolucci started the run with a kill of her own and mixed in two service aces to help lead an 8-0 run to get the score back to within one point at 18-17. The run however, came to an end as Fairfield controlled play with a 7-1 run to close out the first set, 25-18.
Quinnipiac opened the second set on a high note with a 9-6 run to start. Urycki came off the bench and made an immediate impact with two kills and two service aces to get the set going for her team. The Bobcat blockers were up and ready to keep the team ahead as Leigh, Urycki, Paolucci and senior Bonnie Conklin (Plano, Texas) all contributed blocks in the middle of the set. The teams would trade points as late as 18-17 before Fairfield once again came through in the clutch an 8-3 run to close out the second, 25-21.
The Bobcat faithful, led as always by John Payne (father of Quinnipiac alum Taylor Payne), had Burt Kahn rocking in the third set as Quinnipiac captured the victory, 25-22. The Bobcats once again commanded play early as Leigh and Thornton picked up a pair of kills each, capped by two Urycki kills to give the team their biggest lead of the match at 14-8. Fairfield would respond, closing the gap to just two points and then later went on a 5-0 run to make it a 21-20 game. But it was the Bobcats who would finish strong this time as Paolucci and Urycki would net kills and Leigh smashed a solo block to give Quinnipiac set point. Paolucci wouldn't let this opportunity pass as she rose up and placed her jump serve in the perfect spot along the back line to clinch the set for the Bobcats.
Despite the high energy and first set victory for Quinnipiac ever against the Stags and in MAAC competition, the Bobcats fell to the Stags 25-16 in the fourth set. Fairfield opened the set on a 12-3 run and would never look back as they went on to claim the overall victory.
The Bobcats will look to carry the home momentum into a non-conference meeting with Hartford on Wednesday night from Burt Kahn Court. The match is scheduled to tip-off at 7:00 pm.
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