By Hannah Newman
Adversity may have been present, but did not remain persistent for the Rider Broncs volleyball team. After facing a 0-3 loss to Iona followed by a 3-1 victory vs Manhattan. The team was blindsided this weekend after several players missed time due to COVID-19.
“This weekend was not an easy one, as we dealt with the loss of seven players due to COVID. It felt eerily similar to the 2020 campaign and protocols, even though we never had a positive case that year,” said Head Coach Jeffery Rotondo. “We lost both of our setters to COVID, as well as other starters who were contributing well.”
Set up for failure
On Sept. 24, the Broncs took a tough loss to Iona, dropping all three sets despite the best effort of their COVID-ravaged roster.
“We felt we had a chance in each match, even with [senior opposite Morgan Romano] having to set for us. We had a lot of opportunities to play with a lead versus Iona in sets one and two, but continued to find a way to let them back to even on the scoreboard,” said Rotondo.
The first set was a slugfest, consisting of 10 ties and a climactic 24-24 standoff. Iona took command of the final two points, giving the Gaels a 26-24 victory.
The second set continued with a 12-12 tie until the Broncs pulled ahead, scoring five-straight points with three kills off the arm of senior middle hitter Morgan Koch.
However, the Broncs’ rally was cut short, as Iona retaliated with six-straight points, granting them the lead and eventually the second set.
In the final set, the Broncs came back with six consecutive points bringing them to a 12-9 advantage, but that was interrupted by Iona who completed the victory with an 8-1 run.
“For me, setting and running the offense was a challenge and something different for me,” said Romano. “I always knew my setters had a tough job, but I definitely have more appreciation for my setters after having to do what they normally do.”
After facing a difficult challenge against Iona, the Broncs refused to let the rest of the weekend continue the same way. On Sept. 25, the Broncs redeemed themselves with a 3-1 win against Manhattan.
In the opening set both teams were nearly parallel climbing up the scoreboard. The Broncs took the lead at 16-14 until the Jaspers took a 5-0 run that gave them the lead. The Broncs refused to let this run determine the outcome of their game. A 6-0 run from Rider tied the set at 22-22 making the fight to break neutrality a reason to heighten determination.
“Our game against Iona which we fell short of, I felt we were getting used to our new lineup and personnel we had on the court,” said freshman middle Carley McAleavy. “There were a couple of things we needed to clean up in order to be successful in that match but we cleaned up those aspects of the game when we played Manhattan.”
After taking the final three points from the opening set, the Jaspers snatched the lead. The Broncs took the end of the opening set as motivation to enter set two where they came back their strongest, taking the lead 10-3. From this moment on, the Broncs were sure to secure their place in this set finishing it off at 25-18.
Rider kept the same energy going into set three, dominating 25-14, led by seven-straight points on the serve of freshman libero Keegan O’Connor.
“Today vs. Manhattan, we came out flat and holding back, almost afraid to lose and hoping Manhattan would just give us the match. We settled in after the first set, and continued to build some momentum each set to close it out in four,” said Rotondo. “Still, we would have liked to go 2-0 this weekend, but there is no way 0-2 would have been an acceptable outcome this weekend, so we have to live with the 1-1 record and get back to some really focused and intense practices this week.”
The Broncs’ are currently 4-9 on the season and sit 2-1 in MAAC play with another two-game weekend on the horizon, taking on Siena on Oct. 1 and Marist on Oct. 2.