By Steve Sica
The volleyball team (9-3, 1-1 MAAC) split a weekend series at home in its first conference games of the season.
On Sept. 21, the Broncs beat Niagara (4-9, 2-0 MAAC) 3-0, but lost to Canisius (3-9, 2-0 MAAC) in their match on Sept. 22. However, the Broncs are still off to a strong start with a 9-3 record.
Head Coach Christopher Feliciano has worked day and night with his team to make sure they were ready for this season.
“During our spring practice, I knew what we had going in,” Feliciano said. “We were then able to do certain training to make sure we were able to maximize what we had in everyone’s athletic ability.”
Sophomore setter Brandie Hill said she believes this season looks promising.
“We have been off to a really fast, exciting start,” Hill said. “We have a lot of new talent, and combining that with our core group of returners, we have a new kind of energy this year.”
The real test, however, begins now for the Broncs as the rest of their schedule is against conference opponents and the next three games for the Broncs will be on the road.
Feliciano isn’t taking these upcoming games lightly. In his office, he has a whiteboard with game plans and strategies written up for the weekend games, and adjusts his strategy each week to fit each opponent.
“Now that we’re in conference play, we do things a little differently,” Feliciano said. “Tuesday we do our skill sets, but by Thursday and Friday we have a real game plan in front of us.”
Feliciano’s players know the importance of conference play, and are ready to take their game to the next level.
Junior outside hitter Jaclyn Webber is up to the challenge.
“Going into conference play, every practice becomes a little more detailed with the drills, and our mentality becomes more serious,” Webber said. “Our conference opponents are some of the hardest we will face all year, so we know we are always in for a challenge.”
Even though the Broncs split their first two conference games, Hill believes the team will be able to tweak their game plan and find more success in the future.
“This weekend we had our first conference matches, going 1-1,” Hill said. “We are still making adjustments to our game, but we always try to focus on our side of the court and executing our game plan.”
Feliciano’s run with the Broncs has been a rebuilding process for a couple years. Now that it’s all coming together, he is happiest for his veteran players.
“They are the ones who endured,” Feliciano said. “They are the ones who helped me establish the culture. They never missed a beat. They never gave me a hard time and they always wanted to do their jobs. I just hope that we can give them the best volleyball during their last season.”
Rider hopes it will continue its strong play with a conference matchup on Sept. 28 at St. Peter’s. Last season, the Broncs swept both of their matches against the Peacocks.
The team is off to one of its best starts in school history, but everyone on the team knows there is more work ahead, according to Hill.
“The team is always working hard,” she said. “We are ready to be a team that contends for the conference title. It’s going to be a great season.”