By Tom Regan
Following a historic 8-1 start, the volleyball team (14-11, 5-9 MAAC) has been unable to find its footing in the second half of the season.
Rider went into this week with must-win match-ups against Iona (12-13, 10-5 MAAC) on Oct. 30, Quinnipiac (4-22, 2-11 MAAC) on Nov. 2 and Fairfield (14-11, 11-3 MAAC) on Nov. 3, if they had any hopes of competing in the MAAC championship. Unfortunately, they were only able to defeat Quinnipiac, which sent Rider down to the bottom four in the MAAC standings.
Freshman outside hitter Ryan Ackermann felt that the team needed to play more aggressively in order to put up a stronger match against Iona, to whom the Broncs fell 3-0.
“I think we came out a little timid and played passively,” Ackermann said. “We needed to play to win and instead we played not to make mistakes, which really ended up hurting us.”
Rider dropped the match against Iona by scores of 25-14, 25-23 and 25-14. Despite the loss, there were solid contributions from junior setter Ashlee Amatulli and freshman libero Alaina Piszczek, who combined for 34 digs along with Amatulli’s 16 assists.
After the loss, Rider was able to turn the tables by defeating Quinnipiac, 3-0. The Broncs handled the Bobcats, opening the first set on a 12-2 run, ultimately taking the sets 25-19, 25-20 and 25-14.
Freshman middle hitter Kaitlyn Griffin added to her successful rookie campaign, leading the team with nine kills. She believed the team played well against Quinnipiac, speaking highly of the defense that had 14 blocks on the day.
“We served well against Quinnipiac and took them out of system quite a bit,” Griffin said. “If they were in system, our blocking was much better along with our floor defense.”
However, coming off that performance, the Broncs fell victim to another sweep, this time to second-place Fairfield. Despite the lopsided score, Rider played competitively in every set, losing 25-20, 26-24 and 25-23.
Senior setter Bridget Sheerin led the team with 12 kills, while Amatulli had 18 assists and 10 digs. Amatulli’s digs were second to Piszczek, who had a 21-dig day.
With only four games left to play, Rider sits six games out of first and four and a half out of playoff requirement, teetering on the verge of playoff elimination. However, Griffin believes that the Broncs can at least get back to an even 9-9 record in the MAAC as long as they play well.
“We need to stay focused and come out with energy in the next couple of matches,” Griffin said. “We need to continue that energy throughout the match.”