Rider clinches spot in MAAC tournament

By Lauren Amour

With a 3-0 defeat of Quinnipiac on Nov. 10, the volleyball team clinched a spot in the 2019 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Tournament, which will take place from Nov. 22 to Nov. 24. 

Freshman opposite hitter Morgan Romano was named MAAC Rookie of the Week (ROTW) for the eleventh-straight week on Nov. 12. Another award for Romano would sweep the season on ROTW wins in the MAAC.

“It was a goal to make the tournament and to be able to clinch. I know the team is extremely happy, and they’re also humble, and they still know we have work to do. We want to hold on to this number two seed as much as we can,” said Rider Head Coach Jeff Rotondo.

Sophomore setter Anilee Sher said, “[Clinching] feels really good. It’s definitely very exciting knowing how many changes we went through this year, especially with the coaching, I think it feels really good that we trusted the coaches and this is where we turned out.” 

On Nov. 9, the volleyball team saw its six-game win streak come to an end in a 3-1 loss to Fairfield in Connecticut. The Stags’ win clinched their MAAC Regular Season Championship as they remained undefeated in MAAC play.

In the first set, Fairfield quickly jumped ahead on the Broncs, prompting Rotondo to call a timeout. Rider fought back, but it was not enough, as the Stags took the first set 25-15 to take a 1-0 lead.

The Broncs attempted to avenge themselves in the second set, as Sher continued her strong play with 34 assists, becoming the sixth player in program history to record 2,000 career assists. Rider won the second set 25-20, with the match tied 1-1.

“It was exciting. It was a weird feeling because I kind of wanted to get it [2,000th assist] at home with everyone and definitely on a winning day, but it kind of just felt really good to get it,” said Sher.

Unfortunately, the second set would be the only set Rider won and Fairfield ran away with the third and fourth sets, by scores of 25-13 and 25-12.

Romano and sophomore outside hitter Jillian Chan led the Rider offense with 15 and eight kills, respectively. Defensively, senior libero Rachelle Runyon had a match-best 22 digs.

On Nov. 10, the Broncs continued their Connecticut road trip and ventured to Hamden to take on Quinnipiac. Rider was looking to complete the regular-season sweep of the Bobcats and clinch a spot in the 2019 MAAC Tournament. 

In the first set, the Broncs and Bobcats went back and forth until they found each other tied at 25, but Romano and senior outside hitter Alexa Shello’s back-to-back kills helped Rider to a win, 27-25, to take a 1-0 lead.

Rider capitalized on an early lead in the second set, overtaking Quinnipiac 22-13 at one point, eventually winning by a score of 25-13, up 2-0.

The Broncs upset the Bobcats on their senior day when Rider completed the sweep, 25-18, in the third set to win 3-0. 

Nov. 10 was a special day for Sher. Not only did she record 32 assists and seven digs for the match, but it was also her birthday. 

“Since I’ve been at Rider, both of my birthdays have been on gamedays, and last year’s did not turn out so good, and we’ve been joking about that. But today, we swept Quinnipiac and it was really exciting. They got me cake and everything, so it was really fun celebrating with them,” Sher said.

In her strongest match of the season, senior middle hitter Evelyn Shanefield had a career-high 11 total blocks. 

Romano had 14 kills on the day, her eighth straight match in which she recorded 14 or more. Junior outside hitter Ali Ward added eight kills.

Runyon had 11 digs against Quinnipiac, making her the second player in program history to record multiple 500-dig seasons.

 “They [Quinnipiac] have been playing really well, so to come back after a tough loss and take this match on the road to solidify a playoff spot really does mean a lot. I’m really happy for the girls to be able to clinch this. And to now be able to protect our home floor for the next two matches and to see if we can finish this in the two seed,” Rotondo said.

The Broncs return to Alumni Gym on Nov. 13 when they play Manhattan and wrap up their regular season at home on Nov. 16 against Saint Peter’s. Rider has won its last two matches against each MAAC opponent.  The Broncs defeated Manhattan, 3-1, on Sept. 22 and swept Saint Peter’s on Oct. 19.

Follow Lauren Amour on Twitter for the latest on Rider volleyball.

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