Rams Lose Close Battles with Dayton, St. Louis


McKenna Lahr (18) and Nicole Freely (12) go up for a block at the net. Lahr put up 12 kills and 12 digs against Dayton (Courtesy of Julia Comerford/The Fordham Ram).

By Tom Terzulli

Fordham Volleyball hung tough in the face of its greatest challenge yet. The team fell 3-1 and 3-2 against perennial conference power-houses Dayton and St. Louis over the weekend at the Rose Hill Gym.

With the close losses, the Rams drop to 10-9 overall, with a 2-4 record in the Atlantic 10.

The Dayton Flyers arrived in the Bronx with an undefeated conference record, having lost to Fordham just once in 36 meetings. They looked like they would leave the Big Apple as quickly as they arrived, notching identical 25-19 victories in the first two sets.

But the resilient Rams did not go away, playing step for step with their foes in the third frame. With the score tied at 18, neither team had led by more than three. Fordham then put up three straight points on two attack errors and a kill from freshman McKenna Lahr to take a 21-18 lead. Dayton hung around until the very end, knotting the score at 23, eventually falling 25-23 on their seventh and eighth attack errors of the set.

The fourth set was a stanza of runs. Dayton got off to a 10-6 advantage, followed by a 5-0 Fordham spurt. Seven of the next eight points went Dayton’s way for a 17-12 advantage. Fordham slowly fought back, eventually going up 22-21 on a Mackenzie Weaver attack error. Set point came on Natalie Martinez’s second kill of the frame, but Dayton answered with two kills in a row to knot the score back up at 24.  An Olivia Fairchild kill gifted Fordham another set point, but Dayton recorded the final three points to take the set and the match 27-25.

“We took care of the ball. We worked together. It was one hundred percent about the team,” Fordham Head Coach Gini Ullery-Shrift told The Fordham Ram on Tuesday. “The one thing I love about this team is anybody can play any role that is asked of them. That shows true teamwork and true pride for the program.”

Two Rams registered double-doubles, led by Fairchild’s 19 kills (.209) and 10 digs, along with two aces and two blocks. Lahr had a 12 kill, 12 dig day.

Sophomore Morgan Williams led Fordham with 23 digs. Junior Maddy Walsh was good for five digs of her own, paired with a season-high 49 assists. For the fifth match straight, junior Olivia LaPorta blocked three or more shots, tying a season-best with five while also notching seven kills (.375). Sophomore Elise Benjamin saw some match time as she continues to work back from injury, posting three kills and a block.

Momentum from the last two sets against Dayton carried over into the first opposite St. Louis, runners-up in the A-10 the last two seasons.

“I think the confidence carried over,” Ullery-Shrift said. “We were feeling pretty good after Friday night’s battle, and I think the girls came in knowing that anything is possible they just have to go out and execute.”

Fordham kept it close, leading 22-21 before a Billiken timeout. Fairchild connected with a service ace followed by a service error to cut the Fordham lead to just one, 23-22. Then an attack error and a Kaitlin Morley kill sealed the 25-22 opening set victory.

The experienced Billikens fired back with a dominant 25-16 win in the second set, before another close battle in the third.

Walsh set up Lahr for a kill to put the Rams up 2-1, and Fordham did not relinquish the lead until St. Louis knotted it up at 14. There were five more ties after that, en route to a Billikins set point at 24-22. Fordham scored the last four points to win 26-24; Fairchild’s fourth service ace was the clincher.

An exhausted Ram squad could not keep up in the final two stanzas, falling 25-21 and 15-8 respectively.

Fairchild served up five more aces, bringing her season total up to 46, already the fourth most in a season by a sophomore in school history. She is just 10 aces away from entering the single-season top-10 this year and six away from entering the school’s all-time top-10.

Along with that, her second straight double digit kill effort and 14th of the season included 15 kills to go with seven digs and four blocks.

Walsh assisted on 41 kills, putting her career total at 1,418, good for ninth in Fordham history.

LaPorta converted on nine kill attempts and blocked two shots, while Morley dug out 15 balls and served up two aces, rounding out a nine kill day of her own.

Williams recorded a match-high 20 digs, and Benjamin had a season-high five blocks and three kills in her first start since returning from injury.

“With these two games, we showed where we can perform as a program,” Ullery-Shrift said. “We set the standard really high; we are playing some of our best volleyball right now. Even though we didn’t get the wins, we competed at a very high level and were competitive across the board.”

The Rams hit the road for the next two, beginning with La Salle on Friday. at 7PM.