Koval kickstarts Broncs in come-from-behind win

Junior Veronica Koval had 37 assists in a win against Siena.
Junior Veronica Koval had 37 assists in a win against Siena.

By Carlos Toro

With its back against the wall, the Rider volleyball team had a big comeback victory to cap off its six-game conference road trip.

Down 2-0 in the match, the Broncs (9-11, 3-5 MAAC) won the last three sets to defeat Siena on Oct. 9 after losing to Marist on Oct. 5.

Junior setter Veronica Koval, who had 37 assists in the win against Siena, said that winning this game showed what the team is capable of.

“This win was really important,” Koval said. “I think we all found ourselves wondering when our turning point in the season was going to be and I believe that it has come. Also, this win made history for our program, which was the icing on the cake.”

Before the win against Siena, Rider traveled to Marist (6-11, 6-1 MAAC) and started the game on the right foot. The Broncs used a 6-0 run early in the opening set to win 25-16.

The Red Foxes did not allow a similar run in the following set. Instead, Marist stayed within striking distance until the second one was tied 20-20. A few errors by the Broncs cost them, as they lost 25-21.

The third set was even closer towards the end with both teams trading leads throughout. But with the Broncs up 24-22, Marist came back with a small run that gave it the 27-25 win. Marist won the fourth set 25-19 to secure the match win.

The Broncs then went up against Siena (5-14, 4-5 MAAC) where Siena won the first two sets in very close fashion.

From that point onwards, the Broncs’ herculean comeback started. From the start of the third set, Rider had the lead and did not surrender as the Broncs won their first set of the match.

After that, the Broncs and the Saints were tied early in the fourth, 4-4, but a service ace by the Broncs jumpstarted the team’s next big run. The visiting Broncs’ lead increased as Siena could not get back. Rider won the fourth set 25-14 and tied the match 2-2.

The fourth set was a result of the Broncs taking advantage of all the mistakes Siena was making. The Saints made a game-high seven errors, while the Broncs had their most effecient set, having a team attack percentage of .385.

The fifth and final one was another nail-biter. Even though Siena did not have the lead once in the final set, the Saints were typically within two points of Rider’s lead. Siena eventually tied it 14-14 until a kill by senior outside hitter Ryan Ackermann and a Siena service error gave the Broncs the 16-14 set win and match win.

Sophomore right-side hitter Hailey Riede finished the match with a team-high 18 kills and graduate middle hitter Briana Guzman had 11 kills and a team-high attack percentage of .361.

The win against Siena put Rider in sixth place in the MAAC standings for the second week in a row. Only the top six teams qualify for the MAAC Tournament and Rider is trying to qualify for the second year in a row. This year’s MAAC Tournament will be contested at Fairfield University next month.

Koval said that the road trip was hard on the team, which went 3-3 during that stretch. She said that the team learned a lot during the trip.

“Being on the road is always hard,” Koval said. “This weekend, I think we found that we just need to remain focused, and when you get off that bus, you need to be ready to play. I feel as though we all learned that if we just play as a unit, and avoid those small mistakes in critical moments, we will be in great shape for the rest of the season.”

Rider will play its next four games at Alumni Gym. The Broncs’ next game is against Manhattan on Oct. 15 and then they face off against Iona on Oct. 16. Koval said that the team is happy to finally be back home.

“Coming home will be so nice,” Koval said. “It feels like forever since we have been home. Also, the teams that we will be playing this weekend are both strong and have given us a run for our money and being able to get a win in front of our friends and family will mean so much.”

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