By Carlos Toro
The Broncs went undefeated on their latest homestand, beating local rival NJIT and conference foes Canisius and Niagara to extend their winning streak to four games.
Rider (16-11, 9-4 MAAC) has now eclipsed its season and conference win totals from last year.
Head Coach Christopher Feliciano is confident in the group’s growth and maturity as the season progresses.
“Our tough non-conference schedule has developed a mental toughness in them,” Feliciano said.
The first of the three games played was against NJIT (8-19) on Oct. 29, a squad that won its previous two games.
In the opening set, both squads traded blows, as no team had a lead greater than four points, but Rider ended up winning 25-21. The Highlanders then started the second set 5-2, but two straight service aces and three kills in a row put Rider not just in the lead, but in the driver’s seat to win the set 25-16.
The third set provided more of a challenge for Rider. The Broncs were winning the set 10-6, but three errors contributed to an NJIT comeback that put Rider behind 14-10 before the game got into a heated battle for the set. Tied 14-14, both teams did not have a lead larger than two points. Rider won the set 25-23 when senior right side hitter Jennifer Borio got the match-winning kill.
In the game against Canisius (6-16, 6-7 MAAC) on Nov. 1, Rider dominated the first two sets, winning with relative ease. The first set was 8-7, until a kill from Borio jumpstarted an 11-3 run to give Rider a 19-10 lead. Rider then thwarted a comeback from Canisius and won the rest of the set 25-19.
The Broncs did not have much trouble winning the second set as it ended 25-15. The third set, however, proved more difficult, as Canisius capitalized on errors committed by Rider, and won the third set 27-25.
The Broncs rebounded from their mistakes in the third set and won the fourth and deciding set 25-16.
Sophomore outside hitter Ryan Ackermann said the wins are a result of a collective group effort, not just one player.
“I think the team keeps itself strong,” said Ackermann. “We rely on each other whenever we’re losing.”
The following day, Rider hosted Niagara (11-14, 7-7 MAAC), and the Purple Eagles gave the Broncs a competitive contest that had 37 ties and 14 lead changes. Niagara won the first set of the match 25-23, and both teams fought hard in the next two sets, which Rider won 25-19 and 25-22.
In the fourth and deciding set, both teams traded points, eventually getting deadlocked at 9 points each. The stalemate ended when Niagara went on a 7-0 scoring run and looked to tie the match at two sets apiece.
When the set was 19-12 in favor of Niagara, Rider called a timeout and immediately afterwards, mounted pressure and kept racking up points until the score was tied 20-20 in the fourth set. After Niagara scored twice in a row, Borio had 5 of Rider’s deciding 6 kills to win the set 25-22 and the match 4-1.
Rider faces two more conference teams on the road this week with a Nov. 5. matchup against Manhattan (16-11, 9-5 MAAC) and against Saint Peter’s (6-17, 3-11 MAAC) on Nov. 8.
“It’s a good thing to know that you have a team that, when you’re down by that many, you can come back,” Feliciano said. “We are a team that’s starting to play well when we’re behind, and when we’re ahead. That’s going to be important against the teams ahead.”