PREP VOLLEYBALL: Fairfield loses to Andrean in four sets; season ends in regional semifinals

Oct. 23—BREMEN — For the third straight season, Fairfield found itself in a regional matchup against Andrean.

While the Falcons got the better of the 59ers the prior two seasons, this year Fairfield head coach Brittany Herschberger's team couldn't quite make it a trio of victories in a row over its recent postseason rival.

The Falcons fell behind early after dropping the first two sets, but showed a lot of fight in a 25-18 victory during the third set. Fairfield showed even more resilience in the fourth set, cutting what was a 20-10 deficit to 24-23 in the late stages.

Unfortunately for the Falcons, Andrean would go on to score the decisive 25th point to secure the 3-1 win and end Fairfield's season at 20-11 in the Class 2A regional semifinals on Saturday.

"This team just doesn't give up," Herschberger said. "They really showed that being down two games and coming back to win the third. And then being down 20-10 in the fourth, a lot of teams give up at that point and say we can't win. I think that says a lot about our team and their ability to fight back."

For Andrean (29-5), it's a reversal of fortunes after falling to the Falcons 3-1 twice in the regionals the prior two seasons.

"I liked my team's perseverance there at the end with the way they played," Andrean head coach Grant Bell said. "That's a team that's beat us the last two years at this stage, and we've always felt like we've been there fighting. ... This year, we've had a target on our back, so it was nice to come in more relaxed because we wanted to beat them really badly with the rivalry we've unintentionally created over the last couple years."

The first set of the match was a tight, back-and-forth battle that saw Fairfield take a 17-13 lead behind solid, well-rounded play both offensively and defensively. The 59ers though went on a backbreaking 9-0 run to take a commanding 22-17 lead late. The Falcons would come back within two, but Andrean would eventually win the set 25-21 off of an impressive kill by Marin Sanchez that earned the set-winning point.

Andrean kept the heat on during the second set, surging ahead 12-6 midway through the frame. That lead would balloon to a 20-11 advantage before the 59ers went on a 5-0 run to win set two 25-13.

"Their outside hitters really hit the ball well during those first two sets," Herschberger said. "They were very on (Saturday). Number 14 especially had a really good game. Number 13 did as well, and they did a good job of hitting over our blocks."

With their season hanging in the balance, an experienced Falcons group that features five seniors played well under pressure in the third set. Fairfield spiked its way to an early 10-5 lead before weathering a couple mini Andrean runs to win 25-18.

"We focused a lot more on blocking during that third set," Herschberger said. "We cheated up earlier, and we moved our defense in to try to dig those balls."

The fourth and final set saw the 59ers take a commanding 8-1 lead early; a lead they'd hold on to for a majority of the set. In a desperate position, the Falcons hung around and came back within one point late in the set after a 13-4 run. They'd fall just short though after Andrean clinched the 25-23 victory to advance.

MaKenna Steele had 16 kills for the Falcons, while Brea Garber had 15. Garber also added four blocks and two aces during the match. Morgan Gawthrop had 12 digs, while Sydney Stutsman had 11 digs and 30 assists.

"We have five seniors, and they all play a lot, so it's going to be a big hit for us to replace all five of them," Herschberger said. "But we have a big junior class, and we have some solid sophomores. Our incoming freshman class looks really good as well, so just overall, there's always people ready to step in and play the next year in our program."

Evan Lepak can be reached at or 574-533-2151, ext. 240326. Follow him on Twitter @EvanMPLepak.