Volleyball Winners in One of Three at the Battle for the Big Apple


Olivia Fairchild (16) had 13 kills, 12 digs and 5 aces against the Terriers.

Olivia Fairchild (16) had 13 kills, 12 digs and 5 aces against the Terriers.

By Tom Terzulli

With conference play just on the horizon, Fordham Volleyball spent its last three matches participating in the Battle for the Big Apple at Columbia University in Manhattan. It went 1-2 on the weekend, with losses against the hosts and LIU Brooklyn, along with a victory versus St. Francis Brooklyn.

Losing two of three, the Rams put a bow on their non-conference schedule holding an 8-5 record. That’s good for their most non-conference wins since 2012 and the first winning record prior to league play since 2009.

“We are doing a lot of really good things,” head coach Gini Ullery-Shrift said on Tuesday. “The girls have been really competitive across the board which has been great to see.”

The Columbia Lions handed Fordham its third loss in a row with a straight sets victory (25-16, 25-21, 25-19) on Friday night.

“Columbia had a really good match,” Ullery-Shrift said. “But, at the same time we still battled, we got better each set. That is exactly what we want to see no matter who we put in. So it was nice to see some of the girls step up.”

Sophomore Olivia Fairchild just missed out on her sixth double-double, registering a team high 11 kills paired with nine digs. Classmate Morgan Williams was the digs leader with 16. Fellow sophomore Kaitlin Morley had seven digs of her own to go with seven kills and senior Molly Oshinski was right behind her, putting up a six in the kill column.

Fordham disposed of the St. Francis-Brooklyn Terriers in match one of day two, with a straight sets drubbing of its own.

Trailing 22-18 in the first set, the Terriers put up four straight points to tie it at 22. A Fairchild kill gave Fordham the lead back. Then, following a Terrier point, another Fairchild kill and a service error gave Fordham set victory 25-23.

The Rams were fast and furious in set two, jumping out to a 16-6 advantage, helped by three kills from junior Natalie Martinez and three Fairchild service aces. St. Francis’ offense scored just eight more points and committed two service errors en route to a 25-14 Fordham win.

Fairchild killed the ball to give Fordham a 1-0 lead in the 3rd frame. The next four points went the Terriers’ way and Fordham did not get the lead back until they went up 16-15 on a Martinez service ace. She then was flagged for a service error, triggering five straight St. Francis points, giving them a 20-16 lead. Fordham took the advantage back with six consecutive points and never relented, taking the set and the match 25-23.

“We executed our game plan really well,” the fifth-year head coach said. “We were in system which allowed us to be a lot more successful. We had good passing position which allows two attackers to go after it.”

In her sixth double-double of the year, Fairchild was all over the stat sheet with 13 kills, 12 digs and five aces. Martinez put up a season high 11 kills, while Morley chipped in 10. Setters Walsh and freshman Sophia Plett totaled 35 assists between them. Defensively, junior Olivia LaPorta had three blocks.

LIU Brooklyn relented one set to the Rams, that being the first, 27-25. Fordham called its first timeout up 18-15. The Blackbirds outscored the Rams 9-5 out of the break, allowing them to take a 24-23 advantage. They each traded points until a Fairchild, Freely block, a Morley kill and a Fairchild service ace sealed a Fordham win.

Down by as many as five, the Rams made it close in the second stanza, eventually falling by the same score as the first, 27-25. The next two tries were easier for LIU, in 25-21 and 25-14 triumphs.

Fairchild was kills leader yet again with 10 and matched her career-high, set earlier this season against Southeast Missouri State, with six aces. Morley and Martinez had nine and seven kills respectively. LaPorta put up another three blocks on the defensive end with Fairchild matching her. Walsh was the assisting party on 20 points, while the debuting senior Emily Fronk contributed 15. The libero tallied 16 digs, Morley was second best with nine.

21 service aces over the weekend brings the Fordham total up to 102, good for fourth best in the country. It is are just three off A-10 rival La Salle for second place.

“Our game plan in regards to serving is make the opponent move, Ullery-Shrift said. “We want to make that athlete across the net get moving and force them to make a play.”

Conference play begins for the Rams, and an eight game road trip ends over their next two contests. Davidson and VCU will be the opponents on Friday and Sunday at 7 p.m. and 12 p.m. respectively.

“The message to our athletes is we are back at 0-0. It’s a brand new start,” the Ram coach said. “We need to be ready to battle in any situation, no matter who is playing, no matter who we play against. Our mindset has to be go out there and be competitors.”