Courtesy: Rod Sanford

Stags Fall to No. 15 Michigan State in NCAA Championship First Round

Courtesy: Fairfield University
December 02, 2016

EAST LANSING, Mich. – The Fairfield University volleyball team saw its 2016 season come to an end on Friday evening, dropping a 3-0 decision at ninth-seeded and No.1 5 nationally-ranked Michigan State in the NCAA Championship First Round at the Spartans’ Jenison Field House. The Stags’ Megan Theiller led all players with 12 kills in the postseason contest.

Fairfield’s MAAC Championship season concludes with a record of 28-6. The Stags’ first loss since Sept. 10 also ends the nation’s longest winning streak at 22 matches. The run was the second longest in program history (27, 1998) and included only the second 18-0 MAAC regular season in conference annals.

Michigan State (25-8) advances to meet Arizona in Saturday’s Second Round. The Wildcats swept Cleveland State in today’s opening match.

In addition to Theiller’s dozen finishers, Skyler Day added five, Megan O'Sullivan and Mayda Garcia each posted two, and Kaitlyn Fisher and Manuela Nicolini notched one apiece. Nicolini and Sydney Buckley shared setting duties and distributed five and 12 assists, respectively.

On the defensive end, Mallory Bechtold and Taylor Rudeen shared the team lead of eight digs. Theiller chipped in with five from the back row and Day added four. At the net, Day sent back a solo block while Fisher and Garcia also teamed up for a rejection.

The Spartans were led by eight kils from Autumn Bailey and seven apiece by Chole Reinig and Alyssa Garvelink. Rachel Minarick doled out 32 assists for Michigan State and Bailey had a match-best 11 digs.

In the opening set, Theiller led the Stags with three kills and Day added two finishers as well as a solo block. Fairfield never allowed an extended run by the Spartans but the Stags were unable to put together a stretch of the own larger than two straight points as Michigan State pulled away for a 25-14 decision.

The teams traded points to start the second frame with three early Theiller kills pushing Fairfield to a quick 4-3 edge. However, the Spartans responded to the slim deficit with five straight points to take an 8-4 advantage. Once again, the Stags could not engineer a run against their Big Ten foe as Michigan State steadily built its lead en route to a 25-13 win in the set and a 2-0 lead in the match entering the intermission.

The Spartans carried their momentum through the break and into the third set. Michigan State led by as many as nine in the stanza, taking a 25-15 victory to complete the 3-0 sweep.

The Stags’ 2016 season was highlighted by the program’s ninth MAAC Championship, tying Siena for the most in conference history. Fairfield’s 28 victories mark the third-most in program history and the most since the 1998 (35-2) and 1999 (30-4) teams put together back-to-back 30-win campaigns. O’Sullivan is Fairfield’s lone senior, graduating as a two-time First Team All-MAAC honor and MVP of the 2016 MAAC Championship, with the rest of the Stags slated to return in 2017.

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