FAIRFIELD — The last few years at Fairfield have been all about overwhelming power at the net. The Trojans have been able to run the Southeast Conference, along with Ft. Madison, for all of recent memory, and a lot of that was due to a stacked class of 2019, which included star hitters Alison Godwin and Kara Jeffrey.
Unfortunately for Trojan fans, the times of watching the likes of Godwin and Jeffrey pepper the court with spikes is over. The two of them, along with third-leading hitter Julia Fritz, graduated in 2019, leaving some big holes to fill now that the fall has rolled back around.
That means it’s step up time for a handful of Trojans. The top three hitters from last season combined for over 700 kills, leaving some big shoes to fill, and the Trojans bring back just two of their top six hitters overall.
Twin sisters Grace and Chloe Stever, now entering their senior year, will be the big names to watch for in front of the net this season. Grace was fourth on the team with 78 kills in 2018, and Chloe was right behind her, with 52. They’re the only two returning Trojans who had over 15 kills last season.
“We’re going to have to focus on playing as a team,” said Grace last week at practice. “We’re playing with a lot of new people this year, so we’re just going to have to be together as a team, talk and just do our best. It’s a way different team than last year.”
Grace says one of the biggest challenges this year will be for the team to find its voice, something she is working on. Grace says she’s usually more quiet on the court, but that she’s trying to change that a bit this season.
“I’ve just tried to make the freshmen feel welcome, and let everyone know we’re together as a team,” Grace says. “Just making everyone feel welcome, and letting them know that this is Trojan volleyball. We’re about having fun, but also working hard.”
Chloe, the louder of the two sisters, says it’s been fun stepping up. She says one of her goals this season is helping the team gel together, and a big part of that is keeping everybody up.
“I’m a lot louder than Grace is,” she says. “She is more quiet. There are a few seniors that are a lot more vocal, so hopefully we’ll be able to spread that throughout the team.”
Last year’s graduation didn’t just hurt the Trojans up front, either. Fairfield lost their top four in digs, inclung Danae Drish, who finished the year with 569 digs in 2018, and Jillian Dunlap, who had 243.
The only position that won’t see many changes this season is the setter spot. Lily Hoskins will be coming into her senior campaign as the top returning performer from last year, leading the team with 363 assists in 2018.
“I’m honestly really excited,” Hoskins says about the challenges ahead. “Last year we had a great group. This year will be just as good, we just have to work hard.”
Hoskins finished second in assists in the Southeast Conference last season. She also finished just outside the top 10 in digs, tallying 170 on the year for 11th in the conference.
Hoskins says she’s excited for the new breed of players coming onto the varsity squad this season. She says she’ll also be working on picking her teammates up and building the team back up to be a conference title contender.
“We’re new (and) we have to build a new team,” Hoskins says. “But I’m honestly really excited about it. A new role (for me) is really picking everybody up, and being a leader for the team.”
The Trojans finished behind Ft. Madison in the SEC standings last season, but they did knock the Bloodhounds in the regional semifinal, before eventually faltering to Cedar Rapids Xavier one game away from the state tournament.
The Troans will begin their season on Thursday, Aug. 29 with a home quad. They’ll play matches against Albia, Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont and Iowa Mennonite.