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The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Quinnipiac stops Iona, sets up MAAC Championship showdown with Fairfield

Peyton McKenzie
Quinnipiac volleyball will face Fairfield in the MAAC Championship for the second-straight season after being Iona 3-1 Saturday.

FAIRFIELD – It felt like deja-vu to watch sophomore outside hitter Ginevra Giovagnoni lead Quinnipiac volleyball into its second-straight MAAC Championship game, on her birthday, Saturday night. 

And what better way to celebrate her 21st birthday than by killing the last point of the semifinal match against Iona Gaels, winning Quinnipiac the match three sets to one. 

On paper, Iona seemed like an easy opponent. The Bobcats won both matches this season against the Gaels and seemingly just needed to keep up their energy against the Gaels, to be in line to play in the second straight MAAC title game. At the start of the match, however, it was hard to determine where those energy levels resided. 

Quinnipiac’s bench is always quieter than the opponent’s side, with Iona being particularly loud tonight, with chants varying from ‘Who let the ball out? You!’ to just straight up screaming whenever Quinnipiac was up for serve. 

And yet, the Bobcats didn’t even bat an eye at them as they took the first two sets 25-18 and 25-19, respectively. Their biggest challenge came in the form of the MAAC Libero of the Year, Iona’s senior Hope Matschner, who recorded 29 digs and four assists. 

“(Matschner) is what scares me on that team the most,” Quinnipiac head coach Kyle Robinson said. “When you have a libero like that, I don’t know how you adjust to it. We have to be a little bit smarter, make sure we have a lot of options and make good decisions. But she’s going to win a lot of battles and we know that.” 

Matschner’s saves made for some incredibly long points throughout the sets, denying Quinnipiac’s chances to the kill. And yet, the Bobcats barrelled through her to the win.

“We knew it would be tough, but we made it,” Giovagnoni said. “We are sisters on the court and outside of it. We know each other enough to find the connections between us and to be able to put the ball on the other side.”

Despite many interruptions as Iona challenged multiple points, winning every challenge but one— the Bobcats kept their heads high.

“If everything and everyone is working against us, we’re gonna work together,” sophomore setter Damla Gunes said. “It’s ‘We, over everyone else.’ Sometimes it helps, but we don’t mind (the interruptions) to be honest.” 

The Gaels seemed to have jumped on the proverbial horse for a moment there as they snagged the third set, but it didn’t last long. Quinnipiac quickly clawed its way back to the saddle.  

“We knew Iona wouldn’t go easy,” Gunes said. “So we said ‘don’t look at the score, just compete, and the score is going to come up.’”

Giovagnoni led the team with 27 kills and 21 digs. Graduate outside hitter Arynah Diaz was right behind her with 20 digs and 15 kills. And Gunes amounted 48 assists and 13 digs. 

The sophomore captain was recently named conference Setter of the Year, a goal she set her eyes on before the season even started.

“In the beginning of the season, the coach asked us if we had any individual goals and I told him I wanna get setter of the year,” Gunes said. “When (Robinson) announced it, I was like ‘I told you coach.’ I was emotional, I’m really proud of myself and the work I put in.”

Saturday was made that much sweeter for Gunes with the addition of her and sister Yagmur Gunes’ parents on the sideline, who flew from Turkey to watch them play in person at Quinnipiac for the first time. 

“I still can’t believe that they are here and watching me play,” Damla said. “Back home they were always coming to our games, so it felt like I was back home. I just wanted to make them proud and to see how much I improved in person.”

Damla managed to give the entire Leo D. Mahoney Arena a scare after she didn’t get up from a fall for a few minutes, even stepping off the court and giving freshman opposite Cynthia Skenderi her first tournament appearance for the duration of one point. As she said though, it was just muscle cramps.

“I’ll be okay, I just need some massage. It’s just one final game, I need to push through,” Damla said. 

Quinnipiac now looks forward to playing the team that’s probably its biggest rival. the No. 1 Fairfield Stags in their home arena on Sunday at 1 p.m. 

In all four championship game appearances in Quinnipiac volleyball’s history, it was always the Stags that stood between the Bobcats and the title of the champions. 

Last year, Quinnipiac managed to snatch the victory for themselves. It entered the tournament as the underdogs and proved it is to be feared. 

This year the Bobcats enter the championship game as the defending champions, ready to go out there and compete like they always do. 

“You gotta do what you gotta do,” Giovagnoni said. “You gotta chop their head off. Doesn’t matter if it’s me or someone else, we leave and we focus on tomorrow’s game.”

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