By Carlos Toro
The volleyball team started the season by splitting four games at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore Invitational with freshmen outside hitter Catie Harding and right side hitter Hailey Riede receiving all-tournament honors.
The Broncs (2-2) swept UMass-Lowell, winning both matches 3-1, but lost to Maryland Eastern Shore twice, 3-2 and 3-1. Rider Head Coach Christopher Feliciano was content with the two wins and called it a stepping stone for having a successful season.
“It’s important that we came out with a 2-2 record,” Feliciano said. “We want to ensure ourselves the opportunity to have a winning record this season.”
Rider’s first win came against UMass-Lowell on Aug. 28, with junior middle hitter Kaitlyn Griffin earning an attack percentage of .375 with 11 kills.
During the second game, the Broncs battled the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. After Rider won the first set, 25-23, the Hawks captured the next two sets before Rider won the fourth set, 25-14. The fifth and deciding set was a back-and-forth affair that saw UMES win, 16-14.
Coming into day two, Rider trailed 8-6. They rebounded and won the set, 25-20, but the opponent won the second set by the same score. The Broncs won the third and fourth set to win their second match.
The fourth and final game was against Maryland Eastern Shore for the second time in the tournament. After a competitive first-set win, Rider could not prevail, falling to a 2-2 record. Maryland won the following three sets with relative ease, 2-21, 25-19 and 25-19.
Two big performances during the weekend games came from Harding and Riede. Harding, named Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Rookie of the Week, averaged 14.75 kills per game and four points per set in the tournament. Riede averaged 2.18 kills per set — 37 total — while compiling an attack percentage of .367.
Feliciano commended the two players on how well they played during the first games in their collegiate careers.
“It was nice to see the two freshmen step up and play great matches,” Feliciano said. “While it is still a work in progress, the future is bright for our freshmen group. It will take time to develop and adjust to the speed of Division I volleyball.”
The team continued its non-conference road trip to the St. Francis Brooklyn Terrier Invitational, facing off against St. Francis Brooklyn and Valparaiso on Sept. 4. The Broncs split two matches on the first day, defeating host Terriers 3-1 before losing to Valparaiso University 3-1.
Harding earned 11 of Rider’s 66 points in the opening match. Sophomore defensive specialist Emma Aldaya compiled an impressive 23 digs while Griffin and junior outside hitter Ryan Ackermann each had 13.
During the second match against Valparaiso, Harding earned a team-high 24 digs as well as 10 kills while Aldaya had 21 digs. Senior setter Brandie Hill contributed 19 assists while Koval added 15. Griffin and Riede strengthened the offense with a combined 23 kills.
On Sept. 5,the final day of the St. Francis Terrier Invitational, the Broncs lost to NJIT, 25-23, 25-20, 18-25, 25-21.
Griffin’s 14 kills and 11 blocks couldn’t deter the Highlanders from defeating the Broncs. Still, the team looks forward to battling at home, hosting Iona College on Sept. 9.