By Thomas Albano
Following a season with only 11 victories, the volleyball team is off to a strong start already by recording eight wins. The Broncs are home and ready for conference play, which starts with two games this weekend — Sept. 21 against Niagara and Sept. 22 against Canisius, both in Alumni Gym.
The Broncs (8-2, 0-0 MAAC) come into this weekend’s games after a 3-0 victory in the home opener against La Salle in Alumni Gym on Sept. 11 and going 1-1 at the Bucknell Invitational in Lewisburg, Pa., on Sept. 14. In the first game, the Broncs defeated Fairleigh Dickinson 3-0, but then fell to Bucknell 3-1 in the next game. By defeating La Salle, the Broncs achieved their best start since 1984. Freshman middle hitter Kaitlyn Griffin credits the success to a total team effort.
“The entire team put in 110% since the first practice and everyone is extremely supportive of one another,” Griffin said. “Everyone hustles and leaves their heart on the court and that is why we have a winning record. It isn’t just one person for our team, it’s a group effort.”
During the home opener, known as Code Cranberry, the Broncs defeated La Salle 25-16, 25-21 and 25-13. The match only featured six ties and two lead changes in front of a crowd of more than 500.
“It was a good win in front of a great crowd,” third-year Head Coach Christopher Feliciano said. “You want to win a home opener and it was a good match.”
The standout performance from the match came from junior outside hitter/right side Jaclyn Webber, who had 15 digs, 10 kills and hit .500. Other notable performances came from junior outside hitter/right side Kayla Wong and freshman outside hitter Ryan Ackermann.
The Broncs then traveled to Bucknell where they competed twice in one day.
In the first match, the Broncs swept Fairleigh Dickinson with victories of 25-19, 25-18 and 25-12. In addition to Webber, Wong and Ackermann, other standout performances from this match came from Griffin, who had seven kills and hit .500, as well as freshman defensive specialist Alaina Piszczek who had 16 digs, junior setter Ashlee Amatulli who compiled 20 assists, and sophomore setter Brandie Hill who had 11 assists of her own.
The Broncs then suffered a tough defeat to the host, Bucknell. After losing the first two games 28-26 and 25-16, respectively, the Broncs won the third game 25-21 before losing the fourth and final game 25-22. This loss, which featured 34 ties and 12 lead changes, snapped the Broncs’ seven-match winning streak. But, Ackerman is confident that her team can bounce back in the upcoming games.
“We push each other to keep going on our worst days and we cheer each other on on our best days,” she said. “Every single person plays a major role on the team which is what makes us so successful.”
Despite the defeat, Griffin’s performance in this invitational gave her a spot on the All-Tournament Team.
While Feliciano was fine with his team’s performance at Bucknell, he said the team should learn from the loss before going into this weekend’s games at home against Niagara (0-10, 0-0 MAAC) and Canisius (2-8, 0-0 MAAC), the first two games of MAAC play for the Broncs.
“I’m hoping the loss we endured will produce better results in the future,” he said. “We need to really tighten up the screws. We need to be more consistent in offense on the floor, and our defense needs to get a lot better to produce wins regularly.”