Fairfield locks up conference title with Tuesday win
KEOKUK — With less than one week to go until Class 4A regionals, the Fairfield volleyball team is showing no sign of letting up anytime soon.
Fairfield (24-7) locked up its second consecutive Southeast Conference title Tuesday with a three-game sweep of Keokuk. The Trojans dropped the host Chiefs by scores of 25-21, 25-16 and 25-22 to continue their stranglehold on the SEC.
“What a nice and great thing for our kids,” summed up Fairfield head coach Nancy Diers. “I was just happy for the kids. It’s a great honor for them to win the conference title.”
Their 24th and most important win yet was truly a team effort, with 11 girls hitting the court in the three-setter. Seniors Sydney Howard and Erin Thompson finished with 10 kills apiece to pace the Fairfield offense, and junior setter Sydney Burnett supplied 20 assists.
In addition to those usual stat leaders, Fairfield received oustanding nights from juniors Hanna Greiner and McKenna Ledger on the front row as well as libero Cheyanne Laux in the back. Greiner blocked four shots in the match and Ledger helped out on the offensive end with four spikes. Laux finished with an ample 19 digs to receive Diers’ praise afterward.
“I thought Cheyanne played a real good back row for us last night,” said Diers. “She led our team with digs and also passed the ball extremely well so we could run our offense.”
Fairfield found itself down to open game one but never trailed by more than two points the rest of the way. After initially trailing 5-3, sophomore setter Alexis Ring went on a five-point service run to help the Trojans grab an 11-8 lead. Keokuk rolled off six straight points to go up 15-13, but Fairfield took the lead back on Laux’s serve. The Trojans increased the advantage to 23-18 on a Sidney Baumann service run and held on for a four-point win in game one.
The Trojans kept the pressure on Keokuk in the second set and opened up to a 7-4 lead. The advantage ballooned to 18-8 following service runs by Ring and Howard, and Fairfield sailed to the 25-16 win.
In the third and final game, Baumann served the SEC champs to a quick start and early finish. A six-point run on the senior’s serve built the Trojans’ lead to 8-2. Keokuk stormed back to knot the contest at 17-all, and later 22-all, but Fairfield grabbed the final three points on Baumann’s serve.
Baumann, who was coming off an ankle injury Saturday, fired off a team-high three aces on 20-for-23 serving. The senior also contributed nine kills while sticking to the front row.
“I think she was excited to get back onto the court. I don’t think she liked sitting on the sidelines all day Saturday,” Diers said.
Even with the conference title-clinching victory, however, Diers saw plenty of room for improvement.
“It wasn’t a thing of beauty, but we kind of expected that coming in. Keokuk just does everything a little bit different,” said the 27-year veteran. “We just tried to do the best we could at staying alert and running our offense. When we do that we’re pretty good, but we gave up a lot of points last night.”
Overall, the Trojans were off target on eight serves while accumulating 24 attack errors.
Yet many positives remained. Howard added to her team-high kills total with 18 digs, and Burnett tacked on 13 digs. Ring provided 13 assists to go with eight digs, while junior Marisa Repp spiked down three kills in addition to her three blocks. Valerie Payne totaled three digs and Ashley Manning was 3-for-3 on serve receive off the bench.
Fairfield is currently 21-1 in conference games, 7-0 in matches and will aim to put a wrap on its undefeated SEC season Thursday at Fort Madison. Although the Trojans swept Fort Madison in their last meeting, Diers expects a competitive finish to the season.
“They’re playing good ball right now,” she said of Fort Madison. “They have really good ball control, good defense ... so it’ll be a tussle for us down there at their place.”
The Trojans will then have a few days off before hosting Knoxville in the first round of regional volleyball at 7 p.m. Monday.
Fairfield vs. Keokuk
FAIRFIELD — 25, 25, 25
KEOKUK — 21, 16, 22
DIGS — (FF) Laux 19, Howard 18, Burnett 13, Ring 8, Baumann 7, Payne 3, Repp 3, Greiner 3, Thompson 1, Ledger 1
SERVING — (FF) Baumann 20-23 (3), Ring 13-13 (1), Burnett 12-12 (1), Howard 8-9 (1), Laux 7-8, Thompson 5-8
ATTACKS — (FF) Howard 25-26 (10), Thompson 24-31 (10), Baumann 22-24 (9), Greiner 17-21 (6), Ledger 12-13 (4), Repp 13-20 (3), Burnett 2-4 (1), Ring 2-3, Payne 1-1, Manning 1-1
ASSISTS — (FF) Burnett 20, Ring 13, Ledger 2, Baumann 1
BLOCKS (solo-asst-tot) — Greiner 1-3-4, Repp 1-2-3, Ledger 0-2-2, Baumann 0-1-1, Thompson 0-1-1, Howard 0-1-1
SERVE RECEIVE — Baumann 13-16, Laux 12-18, Howard 10-15, Manning 3-3, Repp 1-1, Payne 1-3