Kaitlin Morley had a career-high 16 kills on 23 attacks in the sweep of George Mason (Julia Comerford/The Fordham Ram).
By Tom Terzulli
After losing six games of an eight-game road swing, a return to the Rose Hill Gym was just what Fordham Volleyball needed. They picked up their first two conference wins with a sweep of George Mason and a record-shattering 3-1 triumph against George Washington.
Fordham sits at 10-7 overall with a 2-2 mark in Atlantic 10 play.
“One thing about being on the road is you learn a lot about yourself,” head coach Gini Ullery-Shrift said. “We learned we need to take care of the ball on our side of the court, and I think we did that very well. When we took care of our side, we really executed.”
Scoring remained close in the early stages of set one against the Patriots. With the score knotted at 13, Fordham outscored George Mason 11-3 to close the frame with a 25-16 advantage.
The subsequent stages were a much easier ride, as the Rams coasted to 25-15 and 25-14 wins, trailing just once on the opening point of the third set.
Sophomore outside hitter Kaitlin Morely was unstoppable, leading the Rams in kills for the third straight match, posting a career high 16 on 23 attacks plus six digs. Meanwhile, outside hitter and freshman sensation Mckenna Lahr broke out for one of her best games of the season, registering 11 kills and a team-high 15 digs.
Their performances made up for another quiet day from star sophomore right side hitter Olivia Fairchild. She failed to reach double-digit kills for the third match in a row, the longest stretch of her career. However, the sophomore did put up a Fordham-best four service aces to go along with nine kills, a block and five digs.
“We are running a balanced offense across the board, which is allowing everyone to get in system,” Ullery-Shrift said. “When Fairchild gets her openings, she’s taking advantage and getting the kills. We want to see a high hitting percentage from her, but what she brings value-wise is across the board.”
Junior setter Maddy Walsh had four of the six Ram blocks on a Friday where she did a bit of everything, assisting on 33 kills as well as notching three for herself. Senior middle hitter Nicole Freely and junior middle hitter Olivia Laporta also had three blocks a piece.
In the second of the four game homestead against George Washington on Saturday afternoon, Fordham matched two school records and broke another. Each historic mark utilized a familiar weapon: the service ace.
Already one of the top serving programs in the country, the Rams recorded 18 team aces for only the second time in school history; the other was in 2002 against Howard. They would not have gotten there without Fairchild, whose eight aces broke a single game four set record and tied the mark for a full match. The previous Fordham mark for a four setter was six and just two other Ram women have ever served as many aces.
“We ask our athletes to make the passer move,” Ullery-Shrift said. “Make her make a decision about what she is going to do with that ball. GW struggled with it; every time we made them move, we were able to score.”
The women in maroon easily took the first two sets 25-18 and 25-11 before the Colonials battled back to win a close third frame 25-21. A 2-1 set advantage gave the Rams a chance to close the book in the fourth stanza.
Their lead was just one, 21-20, following a Fairchild service error. But an attack error from GW and three Morley kills guided Fordham to a 25-22 set and match victory.
Those were three of 15 kills on the day for the Westlake Village, California native to go with 13 digs and three aces. Lahr smacked a career high 19 kills and five aces to earn her first back to back double digit kill performance. They were good enough to earn A-10 player and rookie of the week honors respectively.
“Our outsides are doing a really good job getting creative with the sets they are given,” the fifth year head coach said. “Even if a set is not perfect, they’re doing something with it, which makes the setter’s life easier.”
The Rams stay home for back to back A-10 contests over the weekend. The Dayton Flyers are up first on Friday, Oct. 6 at 7 p.m.