By Carlos Toro
The volleyball team reached its third win in a row — the longest streak of its season — with two wins this past week at home.
The Broncs (11-11, 5-5 MAAC) defeated Manhattan on Oct. 15 and Iona on Oct. 16 in the first two of four straight conference matches that will occur at Alumni Gym. The three straight wins, which began at the tail end of a lengthy road trip for Rider, pushed the Broncs’ overall and conference record to .500 for the first time since early September.
Head Coach Christopher Feliciano said the team had been playing well despite the below .500 record heading into the weekend and that it was good seeing the team build itself back up and into MAAC Tournament contention.
“We’ve been working at it,” Feliciano said. “You couldn’t tell by the way we’re performing in the gym and how we were performing in matches that we were under .500. It’s been in the back of my mind, and I’m sure it was in the back of the minds of everybody. It’s a good feeling and I commend my team. It’s all on them. They’ve put the work in.”
Against Manhattan (7-17, 3-7 MAAC), the Broncs pulled off an extremely efficient performance, only committing a total of six errors in the match.
The first set went terribly for the Jaspers, as they had 10 kills and 10 errors in the set for a team attack percentage of zero. Rider took the first set 25-15. The second and third sets also went well for the Broncs, as they swept Manhattan, winning the second and third sets by scores of 25-16 and 25-9, respectively.
Rider sophomore right-side hitter Hailey Riede led the team with an attack percentage of .500 and junior setter Veronica Koval had 30 assists in the win.
The next day against Iona (4-18, 2-7 MAAC), Rider also got off to a good start, winning the first set 25-18. The second set was much more competitive, when it was tied at 15. A kill by Riede jumpstarted a 10-2 run that gave the Broncs a 25-17 win.
The third set was equally competitive. Trailing 21-18, the Gaels took advantage of Rider’s errors to go on a small run that ended with two service aces to win the set.
After 17 ties and six lead changes, Iona got the 25-23 set win.
Iona kept up with Rider in the start of the fourth and decisive set. Both teams could not pull away, until the score was tied 9-9.
The Broncs then responded and they took care of business with a 16-6 run to take the fourth set by a score of 25-15 to win the match.
Koval, who had 35 assists in the win against Iona, said this is a much different team than it was at the start of MAAC play. The three-match win streak puts the Broncs in fifth place in the conference standings.
“We kind of stuck with two mottos in practice: play as a unit and playing in the dirt,” Koval said. “I think at the beginning of conference play, we let balls drop that we shouldn’t and now those balls aren’t dropping anymore. It’s amazing seeing us [cover each other’s backs].”
Rider will continue its homestand when it hosts Canisius (5-13, 3-6 MAAC) on Oct. 22 and Niagara (8-13, 6-3 MAAC) on Oct. 23. The MAAC Tournament begins on Nov. 18 and will be played in Hamden, Connecticut.