By Luke Lombardi
Rider split a doubleheader where every set but one came down to the wire with Marist on March 14, the volleyball team’s first game at Alumni Gym in over a year.
The Broncs won the first match 3-2, where they took the fourth set by a score of 25-12 which was the widest set victory margin of either match.
“Mostly, it was just kind of reminding them of the game plan and reminding them of the tendencies of Marist. I would say we were a little bit out of sorts in the first three sets even though we won that first one, we were a bit jittery,” Head Coach Jeff Rotondo said. “To a certain extent, we were playing not to lose and that comes back to bite you so we asked them to play a little bit more free.”
Freshman outside hitter Tori Schrader, who had 11 kills in the first match, also thought that the fourth set was critical to the win.
“I think we carried the motivation from that set,” Schrader said. “Even the bench and everyone on the court, we knew we could beat them by a substantial amount of points, so I think we just kept that confidence into the fifth set.”
In the first match, sophomore opposite hitter Morgan Romano led the team with 20 kills. Junior setter Anilee Sher had an impressive 52 assists during the victory. Rider finished with 64 assists as a team, compared to Marist’s 45.
Rotundo explained that those numbers are not too crazy for Sher, as she was the top setter in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) last year.
“She’s just that good,” Rotundo said of his star setter. “She’s going to put up a really good ball and, you know, it’s also a credit, in order for her to get the assists, her hitters have to put the ball away. It’s our hitters doing a good job, but it’s also her putting them in a good position to score. It’s what she’s really good at.”
Rotundo also had praise for Romano, who won MAAC Rookie of the Year in 2019.
“The thing is, she’s really good, especially when we’re not passing well,” Rotondo said. “When [Sher] is on the run, that’s a ball if we’re not passing well and [Sher] has to go get the ball on the run, that’s a ball that [Romano] handles really well.”
Marist ended up winning the second match 3-1 with every set’s victory margin being within six points. Rider won the assist battle in the second game as well by a margin of 58-49. When it came to the points battle, Marist had 71 while Rider had 70.
After an intense second set, Rider went out and won the third set 25-22.
When talking about how Rider was able to win the third set after such a competitive previous set, Schrader said, “I think it just shows what we are capable of and what each individual person’s capable of, so we can carry that over into the next set. We know we can beat them and we know individually that we can hit hard and get kills and digs, so I just think we carried that over.”
Romano led the team in kills in the game with 21. Sher had 49 assists in the second game, taking her over 100 total for the night.
“I think both teams were fatigued,” Rotundo said of the latter match. “We even noticed it, me and my associate were talking about that in the third or fourth set in that second match that we could notice fatigue on both sides of the net.”
Rotundo also believes it came down to Marist playing better fundamental volleyball. He explained, “It just came down to Marist executed better down the stretch. They got out to some leads, we cut it back. There were just some phases we weren’t clean in, especially to start that [second] match in sets one and two. We were just not really good in serves and on defense.”
While the Broncs are happy they picked up their first win, they feel like they could have won both.
“You know, obviously going 1-1 is great,” Rotundo explained. “I think we definitely know that as a team, we left one out there today that we’re not too pleased about.”
Schrader also thought getting the first win was big for the team. She said, “We definitely have jitters because we all haven’t played in so long. It’s been almost over a year, so I think getting that first win under our belt, it just takes the pressure off a little bit. We know we can win. We know we’re a good team. I think it definitely takes something off our shoulders. The jitters just kind of went away.”
After the doubleheader, Rider moves to 1-3 both in the conference and overall. The Broncs will host Canisius in a doubleheader on March 19.