Iona’s experience on the court has been key to eight game win streak

Iona senior Claire Archibald leads the team in kills this season.

Ryan McFadden, Sports Editor

It has been three years since the Iona College volleyball team defeated Fairfield in a game. The Stags have been a thorn in Iona’s side, beating the Gaels seven straight times including a victory in the 2017 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championship.

With help from the team’s faithful fans who filled up the stands in the Hynes Center and the men’s swimming team’s enthusiasm, Iona was able to defeat Fairfield 3-1 on Oct. 12 to remain in first place in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

Iona’s victory over Fairfield showcased the confidence and chemistry that flows through the entire roster. The elements on the court are a couple of the reasons behind the team’s success so far.

“I think they trust the process, trust each other and enjoy playing together,” Head Coach Patric Santiago said. “It’s their third year doing it. They’re more comfortable with each other and with me. We are more comfortable giving them more instruction and that process can happen a lot quicker than normal because everyone is used to each other.”

Being the runner-up to the MAAC title last year gave Iona plenty of momentum and a sense of belief in each other heading into the season. The Gaels are 9-1 in the conference and 11-5 overall, as of press time.

Iona is also top five in the conference in almost every major statistical category. The Gaels are first in kills, second in hitting percentage, first in digs, third in blocks and first in opponents hitting percentage.

“I think we’re confident in ourselves and our process as a team,” Iona sophomore Jamie Smith said. “We’ve only gotten this far because of the hard work we’ve been putting in the gym. We still have a lot of work left to do so we are not satisfied yet.”

Smith has been one of Iona’s key players throughout her first two seasons with the team. Smith is second on Iona in kills with 156.

“I just do whatever my team needs me to do,” Smith said. “Whether that’s been on the court or being on the bench helping out the best way I can. Any success I have is through my teammates. I’m playing for them.”

Iona’s seniors like Claire Archibald, Emma Rose and Jessica Paolucci have made their presence known from both a performance and leadership standpoint. Archibald leads the MAAC in kills with 249, while Rose is first in assists. Paolucci is second in the conference in digs, averaging close to five a game.

“They have had the same impact they’ve always had, which is good,” Santiago said. “We do an interesting thing where we don’t have captains on the team. Everyone handles some leadership role and they do a good job doing their part. Above all, our players are doing a really nice job at making sure they are bringing their strength to the team.”

Iona played Saint Peter’s on Oct. 17, but stats were not available before press time. The Gaels will be in action throughout homecoming weekend, playing rival Manhattan on Oct. 20 and Stony Brook on Oct. 21.