FAIRFIELD — After a disappointing four-set loss to Bunnell in its South-West Conference opener on Friday, a match where Notre Dame-Fairfield coach Jeff Adams said there was a major lack of communication between his players, Adams told his team before Monday’s match against Bethel to do one important thing — talk it up.
And the Lancers did just that.
Sparked by 16 digs from Olivia Ramos, 11 kills from Zuquila Mbachiantim and 22 assists from Abigail Anka, ND-Fairfield communicated like crazy in a straight set victory over the Wildcats Monday at the Lancers gym.
“The communication today was phenomenal and that was something we lacked last week,” Adams said, who got the job at ND-Fairfield only three weeks ago. “That’s something I’m a big proponent of … communication on the court.”
The win improved Notre Dame’s record to 3-2 on the season but more importantly, got them back to .500 in the SWC at 1-1 as the Lancers look to return to the SWC and the Class S tournaments.
“We realized that we weren’t communicating as much,” said Ramos, who also had two aces to go with her 16 digs. “We talked with each other and said that we have to play more like a team.”
And they did. Tied 12-12 in the first set, Notre Dame-Fairfield got its service act in gear and 11 of the next 13 points to take a commanding 23-14 lead before winning the set 25-15. Meghan Burke had five service winners and Vanessa Joseph added four as the Lancers pulled away.
“Serving is like, the most important part of the game,” Ramos said. “That’s where everything happens.”
In set two, leading 9-7, ND-Fairfield got three service points from Olivia Ceballos, three from Ramos and four more from Carly Humphrey to eventually take a 24-14 lead and then win as Mbachiantim batted home a kill to take the set 25-16.
And in set three, the Lancers again used the serve as their major weapon as three service points from Ramos turned a 4-3 ND lead into a 7-3 cushion.
“Absolutely, she’s doing a heck of a job. She’s really come on this year,” Adams said of Ramos.
Three more service points from Mbachiantim and three from Humphery gave ND a 22-13 lead and when Gabby Joseph batted home the final point in a 25-16 win, the Lancers had the sweep.
“That’s one skill we work on every practice,” Adams said of the team’s impressive services games. “We work on that at least 15 minutes every practice at this level.”
Adams took the job when athletic director Rob Bleggi was forced to scramble to hire a replacement after former coach Jon Mercado vacated the head coaching position three weeks before the season started. What helped make the transition easier was the fact that Adams’ wife, Karen, is the Lancers JV coach.
“It’s a family affair,” Adams said.
Bethel, coming off a four-set non-league loss to Bunnell, dropped to 2-3 overall, 0-1 in the SWC.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH
ND-Fairfield’s Olivia Ceballos. The senior had three aces, two service points, eight digs and three kills in the Lancers’ three-game sweep.
ND-Fairfield’s Vanessa Joseph. The junior had 22 assists, six digs and two kills. A solid effort from a first-year varsity player.
“He’s a lot more aggressive, coaching-wise than she is … he’s a lot more complicated. I like that,” junior Olivia Ramos said of the difference in the styles between husband Jeff (varsity) and wife Karen Adams (JV) coaches at ND-Fairfield.