By Austin Ferguson
After it started the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) portion of their schedule 2-1, the volleyball team dropped back-to-back road matchups to Niagara on Oct. 5 and Canisius on Oct. 6.
Rider traveled to take on Niagara after a marathon loss to Marist on Sept. 29. Niagara came into the match off the back of consecutive victories against Manhattan and Iona. The Broncs had won their last two matchups against Niagara going into their Oct. 5 matchup.
Niagara took command in the first set and built a 13-6 set lead over the Broncs. Rider battled back and took its first lead at 17-16, only to find itself down again, 20-19. The Broncs ran away with the set from there and won the set, 25-20.
The second set was a closer battle, with both Rider and Niagara trading scores throughout. The Purple Eagles, however, took over at the end of the set and won, 25-22. The third set played out similarly to the second, with Niagara taking the set, 25-20.
Niagara pulled away in the fourth set, 25-10, and won the match, 3-1.
Freshman opposite hitter Morgan Romano and junior outside hitter Ali Ward both registered double-digit kills in the loss. Romano recorded 16 kills and Ali Ward finished with 11.
On Oct. 8, Romano was named MAAC Rookie of the Week for the sixth-straight week. Her consecutive wins extended her record that she set two weeks prior with her fourth-straight win. Her six wins tied the conference record for most Rookie of the Week honors with Iona’s Jamie Smith, who accomplished the feat non-consecutively in 2017.
Head Coach Jeff Rotondo was impressed with Romano’s start to the season and looked at her wins as motivation for more improvement.
“She’s doing a lot of good things with the records that she has broken,” Rotondo said. “It’s a wonderful start to her career. We’re looking to refine [her game] and make her even better.”
Rotondo also noted that Romano gave a lot of credit to her teammates in helping her shine during her rookie campaign.
“She’s very humble, even though she’s getting all of these awards. She also knows that without her passers and defenders doing their job, she doesn’t get those accolades,” said Rotondo.
Sophomore setter Anilee Sher finished with a double-double, recording 40 assists and 15 digs in the match.
Rider looked to rebound from its loss to Niagara against Canisius on Oct. 6. The Broncs lost their last three matchups against Canisius and trailed the all-time series, 10-28.
Canisius attempted to set the tone with a strong first set. After the Broncs took an early 2-0 set lead, Canisius surged back to take a 3-2 lead. They held that lead for the rest of the set and won, 26-16.
Rider found itself up 2-0 again in the second set. Canisius again mounted a comeback to tie the set at four. Unlike the fourth set, Canisius was unable to separate from the Broncs and a back-and-forth set saw Rider take a 25-23 set victory and tie the match at one.
The Broncs continued to roll in the third set and stormed out to an 8-1 lead. Rider did not look back as it closed out a strong set with a 25-15 victory.
For the third time this season, the Broncs found themselves playing a fifth set. Canisius jumped out to a quick 5-1 lead and kept their distance the entire set to win, 15-10, and took the match, 3-2.
Despite the loss, Rotondo was upbeat about Rider’s performance in its middle sets against Canisius and looked to use those sets as an example moving forward.
“We did some film study over the last day and we really wanted to discuss why the energy and the focus and the discipline was better in sets two and three comparatively to sets four and five, we have to find a way to bottle that mental discipline and make sure that carries onto other sets.”
Romano registered 25 kills and five blocks in the match and continued her strong rookie campaign. Ward recorded 16 kills against Canisius; the match was the sixth time she got on the board for double-digit kills.
Sher lined up at least 40 assists for the fourth-straight match. Sher put up 52 assists and 11 digs in the Broncs’ loss to Canisius.
Sher said her ability to work as a setter came from being able to “find the set that works for each hitter.”
“I think the hitters have been doing a really good job at adjusting and communicating with me as to what is working for them and what is not,” Sher said. “After playing so many games, I have learned and have gotten a feel for the hitters, which has allowed me to keep them in situations that will make them successful.”
Rider dropped to 0-3 in five-set matches after their loss to Canisius. In MAAC play, the Broncs fell to 3-3, putting them in fifth in the conference standings.
Rotondo summed up the Broncs’ focus in closing out longer matches with one word.
“Urgency,” Rotondo said. “It’s something we’re going to look at in practice when we get into it [later in the week]. The first five to 10 minutes of practice are going to have a certain amount of urgency and build into it so when we take the floor in a fifth set, we have that mentality right out of the get-go.”
The Broncs host back-to-back matchups on Oct. 12 and 13. On Oct. 12, Rider takes on Quinnipiac on Oct. 12 at 1 p.m. On Oct. 13, the Broncs go against Fairfield, which sits in first in the MAAC.