Volleyball Drops Grand Canyon, Falls to Idaho and Gonzaga in AZ


Fordham’s 7-1 start is the best in program history (Ram Archives).

Fordham’s 7-1 start is the best in program history (Ram Archives).

By Tom Terzulli

Over 2,000 miles away from the Rose Hill Gym, Fordham Volleyball made history. With a four-set victory over Grand Canyon University, the Rams improved to 7-1, the best in program history, topping the 6-2 mark from 2008.

“The biggest thing about this team is the commitment to getting better every time we step in the gym,” said head coach Gini Uller-Shrift. “We have three values: commitment, teamwork and pride and the girls are showing each of those. They are playing any role that is asked of them.”

They wrapped up their time in Phoenix with a pair of losses against tough, non-conference opponents – Idaho in three sets and Gonzaga in four.

After falling behind 1-0 in the first set against the Lobes, Fordham fired off four straight points and never relinquished the lead, coasting to a 25-19 victory. Sophomore Olivia Fairchild led the way with seven kills and a .467 attack percentage. Freshman McKenna Lahr and sophomore Kaitlin Morley pitched in with three kills apiece. Defensively, the Rams were poised, capitalizing on nine GCU errors.

Each team went back and forth to open set number two, leaving Fordham ahead 8-6. Bolstered by two kills from Fairchild, Fordham fired off the next six points to take a dominant 14-6 lead and never looked back, winning 25-15. Fairchild finished with six kills and junior Olivia LaPorta was solid on both sides of the ball, notching three kills and two blocks.

The third stanza was the closest of the match. Three straight GCU points to open the set prompted a quick Fordham timeout. A bad set, a service ace from Lahr and a block from Fairchild and Laporta tied it up at three. The two teams traded points until the Lobes put up six in a row to secure a 11-5 lead. Fordham battled back to eventually tie the game at 15 with Morley’s second kill of the set. After falling behind by two, Morley killed the ball two more times to knot the game once again at 18. The two teams continued to go back and forth with Lahr registering three straight kills and Fairchild sending one down the line to force a GCU timeout. But two straight critical service errors from the Rams gifted the Lobes set point at 24-23 and they converted with a kill.

Falling behind 2-1 to begin the fourth frame, the Rams powered to a 13-8 lead on the back of three kills from Morley and two from LaPorta. Four points each for the two squads made it 17-12 Fordham. Three straight kills from Fairchild, Lahr, and Freeley followed, allowing Fordham to reach 20 first. Lahr then followed up with her 10th kill of the night to put Fordham up 22-14. The Rams weathered a late storm from the Lobes to take the match 25-18.

Ullery-Shirft was glowing with praise after the match. “That was probably the best volleyball we have played all year. It was awesome to see them follow the game plan and execute offensively and defensively.”

A season-high 73 digs, along with a .205 hitting percentage boosted the Fordham statistics. The nation’s leader in service aces put up seven more against the Lobes.

Fairchild’s six blocks (one solo) was a career high, LaPorta’s five blocks were good for a season mark. 18 digs from Morley was also a career best, complimenting her 13 kills. Fairchild (19 kills & 13 digs) and Lahr (10 kills & 10 digs) posted double-doubles.

“We have a lot of depth this year,” Ullery-Shrift said. “We have people in each position that can continue to battle. When we create a starting lineup, we can change it based on matchups and who we are playing.”

The straight set loss to the Idaho Vandals was just the second of the season and it came in straight sets 25-11, 25-16 and 25-15.

26 kills and three service errors for Fordham were both season lows. Fairchild was the only Ram that recorded more than four kills, notching 13 at a .333 clip to go with a solo block and four digs. Junior setter Maddy Walsh notched 13 assists, while sophomore libero Morgan Williams tallied 11 digs.

Fordham lost their next two sets, this time against Gonzaga, to fall behind 2-0. However, they came back with a renewed energy in the third stanza, winning 25-23.

The Bulldogs rebounded from a .171 percentage in that set to blow out the Rams 25-15 for the match victory.

Fairchild and junior Breanna Jones had 10 kills apiece with the former adding a season-high 14 digs for her fifth double-double of the season and fifth in her last seven matches. The trio of LaPorta, Morley and Lahr chipped in six kills apiece. Williams added a team-high 18 digs in the match, while Walsh and freshman Sophia Plett combined for 40 assists.

Fairchild and Williams were named to the All-Tournament squad and Williams was selected by the head coaches as the weekend’s top libero.

The Rams finish out their nonconference schedule at Columbia’s Battle of the Big Apple next weekend.