By Carlos Toro
After a rough start in conference play, the Rider volleyball team picked up its first MAAC win of the season.
The Broncs (7-9, 1-3 MAAC) took a road trip to Buffalo, New York, this weekend where they lost to Niagara on Sept. 24 and then swept Canisius on Sept. 25.
Junior libero Emma Aldaya said that the team is relieved and happy to finally win that first conference game.
“Now that we have our first conference game under our belt, I feel like a sense of pressure has been lifted off our chests,” Aldaya said. “Being able to sweep Canisius and play together as a unit gave us a showing of how good we can be and how we should play if we want to be successful in the future.”
Before the road trip, the Broncs took on Fairleigh Dickinson (0-17, 0-2 NEC) at Alumni Gym on Sept. 21 in the team’s last non-conference game of the season.
After a closely contested first set, which Rider won 28-26, the team took care of business with relative ease, winning the second and third sets by a score of 25-13 and 25-15, respectively.
Rider then travelled to New York state, facing Niagara (4-12, 2-2 MAAC). Rider won the first set 25-21 after a solid offensive team performance, having committed only three errors while making 12 team kills in that opening set.
The second set was another close contest, until the Purple Eagles went on a 5-1 run, tying the score at 20 points. Unfortunately for the Broncs, the third set did not go well, with the Broncs committing eight team attack errors.
Despite the debacle, the team had a chance to win right at the end of the set, but Niagara won the third set 28-26. Niagara closed the fourth set with a 25-23 win to pick up the match win by a score of 3-1.
With their backs against the wall and looking to get their first MAAC win, the Broncs went to Canisius (3-10, 1-3 MAAC) and produced one of their better all-around team efforts of the season.
The first set in the game started with Rider taking a 17-13 lead and a kill from sophomore outside hitter Savannah Logan jump started an 8-3 run to win the opening set 25-16.
The second set was similar to the first, with Rider only committing four team errors in each set. The team had 11 kills, as it won the second set 25-17. A 6-0 run in the middle of the third set gave the Broncs the necessary momentum to close out the sweep and win the set 25-16.
It was an efficient outing for Rider against Canisius. Four different Broncs had at least seven kills in that game. Aldaya had 14 digs in the game and senior Veronica Koval compiled a game-high 30 assists.
Aldaya credited the win to the teamwork the Broncs were able to produce. The team also maintained consistency when it had a set lead. Rider has surrendered set leads in two of their three conference losses this season.
“Against Canisius, we played very clean and sided out easily,” Aldaya said. “We were able to control our game and not play down to their level. Being able to play together was a huge benefactor as well, since we had been struggling to do that. We focused heavily on our hustle and discipline, which allowed every person to contribute to the win.”
The Broncs continue their conference road trip on Sept. 28 against Manhattan (4-12, 1-2 MAAC) and then they face Saint Peter’s (0-9, 0-4 MAAC) on Oct. 1. They return to Alumni Gym on Oct. 15 for four straight conference games.
Aldaya said it is important for the Broncs to keep playing as a team in order to keep earning conference wins to qualify for the MAAC Tournament for the second season in a row.
“To maintain momentum, I think that we need to remember how the Canisius win felt, and we need to continue working together as a unit and not as individuals,” Aldaya said. “We have a few more games on the road and then a series of matches at home, so we must use that home-court advantage to our strength.”