Iona is off to its best conference start since 2011

Ryan McFadden, Sports Editor

The Iona College volleyball team has been playing with a clear sense of direction and passion as they support a 5-2 record in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play. 
“I think we have been fortunate to have the kids work hard,” head coach Patric Santiago said. “They are starting to take ownership of their accountabilities rather than looking for someone to oppose accountability on them.” 
The Gaels hot start in conference play is their best since 2011 when they went 6-2. Iona’s play on the court has given them hope of competing for a spot in the MAAC Tournament at the end of the season. 
“I think they are really excited to have an opportunity to continue to play well and make the playoffs,” Santiago said. “And be the first team to finish in the top six in the last five years.” 
Iona is currently third in the conference, while Niagara (9-6, 5-1 MAAC) is second and Fairfield (11-6, 6-0 MAAC) is first. 
The Gaels are currently riding a two-game winning streak that featured road wins over Marist and Siena last weekend. Junior Emma Rose registered a combined 79 assists. The victory over Siena on Oct. 1 marked Santiago’s 100th career NCAA win. 
“It’s more of a perseverance award than a accomplishment,” Santiago said. “It means to be that I have been coaching for a while.” 
The Gaels have received a major contribution from freshman Jamie Smith, who was named MAAC Rookie of the Week twice, and junior Claire Archibald — the nation’s leader in aces. 
“She [Archibald] has done a better job of being a complete athlete,” Santiago said. “She takes ownership of her nutrition, her weight room and preparation. She is super focused in practice and giving her all. She is putting forth her best mental effort.” 
Iona will kick off its two game home stand against Canisius on Saturday afternoon then wrap it up against Niagara on Sunday. 
“We cannot get ahead of ourselves,” Santiago said. “We have take care of our side of the court and defending our home floor, which we have done a pretty good job of.” 
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