By Shanna O’Mara
The volleyball team worked its way into first place in the MAAC after sweeping Iona 3-0 on Sept. 9.
The team, which was led by junior middle hitter Kaitlyn Griffin and freshman right side hitter Hailey Riede, held Iona off for a home-opening win, 25-19, 25-17, 25-19.
In a back-and-forth match, Griffin’s eight kills, no errors and a .421 attack percentage greatly contributed to the team effort, along with Riede’s nine kills. She and Griffin contributed 22 of the Broncs’ 49 points.
Sophomore setter Veronica Koval had 16 assists while senior setter Brandie Hill added 13 of her own, as well as two service aces. Sophomore defensive specialist Emma Aldaya had 22 digs, and junior outside hitter Ryan Ackermann added 10. The Broncs had six blocks on behalf of equal input from senior middle hitter Nicole Moorman and Riede.
“The teams we faced on day two were tough teams,” Ackermann said. “The matches were good and we fought hard mentally, but I think physically we felt a little drained.”
On Sept. 11, the Broncs traveled to Baltimore for the 7th annual Maddie Bingaman Memorial Invitational. Rider beat Morgan State 3-2 after immediately scoring three points before the opposing team could even get on the scoreboard. Rider lost a bit of momentum in the second and fourth sets but won the deciding fifth.
Ackermann led the offense with 19 kills and a .472 attack percentage. She also added five digs and two blocks.
Riede and freshman outside hitter Savannah Logan each compiled 13 kills for their team while adding 4 and 3 blocks, respectively. Hill and Koval led the assist category with a combined total of 51.
The following day, the Broncs battled Coppin State followed by Fordham in the final two matches of the invitational. Starting strong and defeating Coppin State in the opening set, Rider couldn’t hold up against the Eagles. Although the opposing teams took both games, Head Coach Christopher Feliciano sees great potential in the skillsets and strategies of his team.
“Our team is extremely young as we only have four juniors and seniors,” he said. “We’ve had to battle some injuries this year, and the staff and I are both impressed and proud of the players that have had to step in.”
The team traveled to Saint Peter’s University on Sept. 16 to dominate the Peacocks 28-26, 25-21, 25-22. In the opening frame, Rider trailed 24-21 but came back to grab the victory. The 3-0 match victory would not have been possible without Riede and Ackermann’s 12 kills each.
“We planned to play with maximum effort and work as hard as we could,” Ackermann said.
Koval also greatly contributed to the Broncs’ effort with 23 assists and six digs. Aldaya, now the conference leader in digs per set, led Rider with 14 digs in the match. She and Hill each had two service aces as well, which helped destroy St. Peter’s confidence in the third set. This allowed Rider to score eight straight points, sweeping Saint Peter’s.
From Jersey City, the team traveled to Easton, Pennsylvania, for the Lafayette Tournament, facing NJIT, St. Francis Brooklyn and Lafayette on Sept. 18 and 19. Although the Broncs lost a close 3-2 match to NJIT Friday evening, they redeemed themselves by defeating St. Francis Brooklyn 3-0 the following day.
“Our minds and our bodies were working at two different paces it seemed like at times,” Ackermann said. “We’ve already made so many improvements since those games.”
On the final day of the tournament, Riede averaged 2.23 kills per set and compiled 10 blocks, earning all-tournament honors. Her work, combined with that of the rest of the team, helped Rider defeat St. Francis Brooklyn 26-24, 25-19, 25-21.
“We’ve preached patience to our squad who to their credit are growing and improving every time we practice and compete,” Feliciano said.
The Broncs snatched the two opening sets from Lafeyette before losing the final three. Although the women lost, they looks forward to a successful season.
“I believe we are a much better team already, and it’s only been a little over a week,” Ackermann said. “We continue to work hard every day in practice, and we push ourselves to be better than we were the day before. I can’t wait to see how this teams looks by the time we really start getting into conference play.”