By Carlos Toro
Despite the volleyball team losing four straight games on the road to start the season, they won their last four games easily.
The Broncs traveled to western New York as they beat Niagara 3-1 on Sept. 27 and Canisius 3-0 on Sept. 28 to start conference play with three straight victories.
Head Coach Christopher Feliciano emphasized that the performance on this recent road trip has been nothing but a benefit towards the team’s success.
“This weekend’s trip was the most important because of the distance,” Feliciano said. “In order to be a great team, you have to be able to perform on the road. We are still learning how to do that. This year the results have been thus far very good.”
The Broncs (8-7, 3-0 MAAC) had their best statistical offensive performance. The team finished with a season-high .353 attack percentage. They beat Canisius (2-11, 2-2 MAAC) 25-20, 25-19, 25-19.
For the Broncs, sophomore middle hitter Kaitlyn Griffin had 15 kills and three blocks, hitting .682 with freshman right-side hitter Jennifer Borio compiling nine kills while hitting .643.
Rider’s setters performed well with junior Brandie Hill having 21 assists and senior Ashlee Amatulli adding 18 assists. Freshman defensive specialist Emma Aldaya led the team with 11 digs and had three of Rider’s four service aces in the match.
In the first set of the game, the Broncs took advantage of four errors committed by Canisius when the score was tied 19-19. This allowed Rider to go on a 6-1 run to win the first set.
Rider had a similar run in the following set. As they were leading 8-7 in the second set, the Broncs pulled off a 6-0 run that was led by two kills from Griffin and two aces from Aldaya as Rider pushed the lead to 14-7 in the eventual 25-19 win.
Amatulli credits consistency for helping the Broncs come out on top.
“As a unit, the team played solid throughout the match,” Amatulli said. “We played at one constant, solid level and that’s how we were able to come out with a win.”
Canisius, however, wasn’t going to allow Rider to win without a fight.
The Golden Eagles and the Broncs went back and forth in the third set, until Canisius was leading 15-13. Three more errors from Canisius and two kills by Borio sealed the Golden Eagles’ fate as the Broncs never looked back to stay undefeated in conference play.
Aldaya believes the team went into the match expecting to win and jumped out with a good pace right from the start.
“As a whole, we went into the match with a positive outlook, and we outworked them from beginning to end,” said Aldaya. “We believed in ourselves and each other, and our values really showed true.”
Rider had a rough start to the season, going up against tough teams on the road, which included USC, who were ranked as the fifth best team in the nation at the time.
After playing 13 of their first 15 games on the road, Rider will play their next five games at home, where they are undefeated.
Earlier in the week, the Broncs defeated Niagara (5-11, 1-3 MAAC) 27-25, 25-15, 21-25, 25-23.
The Broncs faced the match point in the first set, but were able to battle back to win 27-25. Rider was able to carry the momentum over by taking 16 of the next 22 points in the second set.
Rider was led by 16 kills from Griffin and 12 kills from outside hitters sophomore Ryan Ackermann and senior Jaclyn Webber.
The teams received contributions from Amatulli and Hill, who had 28 and 22 assists, respectively.
Their next game will be on Oct. 4 against Manhattan (8-6, 2-2 MAAC), who beat the Broncs last year when they visited Rider.
Hill is excited to play in the Broncs’ Zoo, expecting a lot of support from the Rider faithful.
“There is nothing better than playing in front of a home crowd and feeling the home crowd’s energy,” said Hill. “We are really excited to play these next five games at home in front of our fans and all of our supporters.”