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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Fairfield crowd mutes Quinnipiac volleyball’s repeat hopes

Fairfield+drew+crowds+of+more+than+400+people+for+its+MAAC+semifinal+and+championship+matches+on+Nov.+18+and+19.
Cameron Levasseur
Fairfield drew crowds of more than 400 people for its MAAC semifinal and championship matches on Nov. 18 and 19.

FAIRFIELD — The Bobcats never stood a chance. 

Exactly 365 days after Quinnipiac volleyball upset the then top-seeded Fairfield Stags to win its first MAAC title at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, Florida, the Stags charged back. They took down Quinnipiac in four sets on their home court in front of what felt like thousands of rowdy fans to win their record 13th MAAC volleyball title.

Now that all the confetti has fallen and the fanfare has died down, there’s one major takeaway from the 2023 MAAC Championship match. No matter what the team may say or feel, the Bobcats were not built for a game in an antagonistic environment.

“It was nothing special,” head coach Kyle Robinson said. “I wasn’t bothered or surprised by the crowd. I think it was standard for a championship match, standard for rival schools. The crowd was not a factor for us.”

While Robinson may believe the crowd was not a factor, it clearly was.

How can a coach watch groups of unruly fans scream in his players’ ears when they’re trying to serve, run around the court with flags in between sets and see the other team reciprocate with their own antics and say that didn’t play a factor? Yes, it was standard, but it definitely affected the team’s performance.

First set, set point, Fairfield leads 25-24. The Bobcats receive the Stags’ serve, sophomore setter Damla Gunes executes a backset to junior hitter Alexandra Tennon. Tennon’s hit went too long. The Fairfield crowd erupted as its team took that initial set 26-24. Robinson even challenged the play, but he was wrong. The crowd boomed again. Watching the replay of the match online does not do the volume of that crowd justice.

The Bobcats dueled as hard as they could for that first set. Losing it was hard enough, but after that, the entire Fairfield crowd reached another gear and the few Quinnipiac fans in attendance piped down. The Bobcats needed the momentum of winning the first set to fight against the hostile environment. That was when the match unofficially ended.

The official attendance for the championship match was 497 people, but it felt just as loud as a Quinnipiac men’s hockey game. What that says about Quinnipiac’s own crowd culture and school spirit is for another article, but it would have been difficult for the Bobcats to prepare for that.

You can get DJ Christie — the volleyball team’s personal hype woman — to blast crowd noise to deafening levels all throughout Burt Kahn Court for a week prior to the match, but that doesn’t prepare you for reality.

The only other time Quinnipiac saw a crowd of that nature was at the Wisconsin Field House in December 2022 when it played in front of over 7,000 Badger fans and scored only 28 points in a three-set loss. Quinnipiac knew that was coming, and it embraced the situation.

“It was one of the coolest things we could have experienced together,” former Bobcat middle blocker Nicole Legg said at the time. “This incentivized us to make this community and this environment at our school back home.”

The Bobcats were never expected to win that match, but they could have beaten Fairfield on Nov. 19, and they didn’t pull it off.

If the crowd and the odds are both stacked against a team, then all that is left is to rally with the people around it. Quinnipiac didn’t seem to execute on that front.

Quinnipiac volleyball finished the 2023 season with a program-best 15-5 record in conference play, including nine wins in its first 10 MAAC matches. (Peyton McKenzie)

Throughout the MAAC Tournament, most of the teams had lively, and sometimes obnoxious, benches. Marist players always cheer on their teammates, Iona chirps at the opposing team relentlessly and even Fairfield has some fun celebrations when its team gets a kill or other score. Quinnipiac’s bench was near silent.

The worst part about the match is that besides a second set where Fairfield knocked down 19 kills on .563 hitting, Quinnipiac didn’t play horribly.

In her final collegiate match, Aryanah Diaz notched 20 kills and sophomore Ginevra Giovagnoni collected 17 kills as she looks to become the team’s offensive leader for years to come. Gunes had 46 assists, sophomore middle blocker Bailey Brashear had six total blocks and junior libero Fa’avae Kimsel Moe racked up 12 digs. There is a wealth of returning talent coming back to this team next year. 

The team was competitive in three out of the four sets it played. While things certainly could have gone better, they also could have been a lot worse.

“I was proud of what we did this season,” Robinson said. “I was proud of our work, proud of our competition and proud of the way we played.”

The Bobcats’ culture throughout the Robinson tenure has been all-business. For a program that resided in the cellar for the majority of its history, that mindset helped it climb to relevance in the volleyball world. Robinson’s all business style is what won the Bobcats the 2022 MAAC title. However, being serious when everyone around you is having fun and staying loose is one of the reasons why Quinnipiac lost the championship in 2023.

On the other hand, the 2024 MAAC Tournament will be hosted by Siena in Loudonville, New York, away from the home stadium of one of the best mid-major volleyball programs in the nation. When the Bobcats last played there in the 2021 MAAC Tournament, the crowds they saw were 53 and 32 people, respectively.

Quinnipiac might not have to face a big crowd like this for a long time, and it will succeed in the meantime. However, the moment it sees one like it did on Nov. 19, there should be a plan to counteract the chaos. The Bobcats’ roster is too great to let a little noise beat it.

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Michael LaRocca, Opinion Editor
Peyton McKenzie, Creative Director
Cameron Levasseur, Sports Editor

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    AnonymousDec 1, 2023 at 2:19 pm

    Seeing our own paper write about us like this is so discouraging. Opening a paper saying we “never stood a chance” is disrespectful. It’s hard to go through our most winning season in program history with our entire media rallying against us. We work too hard to have our own paper belittle us, contradict our coach, and take our words out of context. I understand that it’s an opinion piece, but every opinion about us in the last two years has been negative for no reason. Do better.

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