By Carlos Toro
The volleyball team has put itself back in the conference playoff conversation after defeating Saint Peter’s on Oct. 1 in the middle of its six-game conference road trip.
The Broncs (8-10, 2-4 MAAC) defeated the Peacocks in straight sets and have now won two out of their last three games. The Broncs are 2-2 in this road trip with two games remaining.
Head Coach Christopher Feliciano said that this was an important win for the team and that it is tough playing on the road.
“We lost two conference matches that we had leads in and played well,” Feliciano said. “That’s where the home-court advantage of those teams came in and we couldn’t finish. We’re still learning, but we’re grateful that we got this win.”
Before the win against Saint Peter’s, the Broncs traveled to Manhattan (5-14, 2-4 MAAC) on Sept. 28, where they got swept in a match where all three sets were decided by four points or less.
Trailing only 20-19 in the first set, the Jaspers went on a 5-2 run to win the set. Rider then lost the following two sets by scores of 25-23 and 25-22.
Senior middle hitter Kaitlyn Griffin had her 1,000th kill in her career in this match and junior setter Veronica Koval had 30 assists and 13 digs.
Against the Saint Peter’s Peacocks (0-10, 0-5 MAAC) on Oct. 1, the Broncs used a 7-1 run in the middle of the first set to catapult them to a 25-18 first-set win.
The Broncs did not make a lot of mistakes in the match, especially in the second and third sets. The team committed just four total errors in the closing two sets. Rider won set two soundly 25-13.
The third set also started swimmingly for the Broncs, leading 7-3. But the Peacocks eventually battled back to tie the set 9-9. Both teams proceeded to switch leads back and forth until the set was tied 18-18.
After a couple of attack errors committed by Saint Peter’s, Rider then went on a big run thanks to kills by senior outside hitter Ryan Ackermann, freshman middle blocker Evelyn Shanefield, and Koval to win the set 25-19 and complete the sweep.
Ackermann and sophomore right-side hitter Hailey Riede had big games against the Peacocks, finishing with 11 and 10 kills, respectively. Riede finished with an attack percentage of .769, while Ackermann, who also had an attack percentage of .364, now has 975 career kills. Koval finished with 29 assists in the win.
Koval said the win against Saint Peter’s was necessary for the team to stay in the top six. The Broncs still have two more games on this road trip before they play several consecutive games at Rider.
“I believe this win will give us some momentum for this coming weekend,” Koval said. “Marist and Siena are two teams that are going to take everything we have to beat them, but we have it in us. We just need to play as a unit.”
Feliciano said the team needs to keep working on its consistency if it hopes to have a chance at qualifying for the MAAC Tournament for the second consecutive year.
“Every win is important, especially where we are,” Feliciano said. “When we do everything right in the gym, it can be frustrating when we don’t win. We want to get better in every match. It’s maintaining that level and getting better. Once we improve on one aspect of the game, it’s about maintaining that level, and not just having it go up and down.”
Rider will travel to Poughkeepsie, New York, on Oct. 8 when it faces Marist (5-11, 5-1 MAAC) and then finish its road trip against Siena on Oct. 9 (4-12, 3-3 MAAC). After that road trip is finished, the team will play its next four games at Alumni Gym, starting on Oct. 15 against Manhattan (5-14, 2-14 MAAC)
Koval said that playing on the road requires the team to play with even more focus, but is confident that they can compete against anyone.
“Playing on the road means that we need to be focused from the second we step on the court to the last point of the match,” Koval said. “The main focus for us is to play as a unit. We find that when we all play as a well-oiled machine, we are unbeatable.