Rider drops consecutive MAAC games in conference start against rivals

Sophomore Elyse Grassmuck added 26 assists in the Broncs’ loss to Fairfield in the MAAC season opener.By RJ Barkelew

The Rider women’s volleyball team opened up its conference schedule this past weekend with high hopes of sweeping the first two conference rivals, but instead fell in both contests.

The first game of the weekend pitted the team against the Fairfield Stags. Despite 26 assists from sophomore setter Elyse Grassmuck, the team fell to Fairfield (3-9, 1-0 MAAC) in the 2008 MAAC opener.

The Stags defeated Rider (7-4, 0-2 MAAC) in four sets: 25-15, 23-25, 25-11, 25-11.

“Set two, we came out really fast,” Head Coach Emily Ahlquist said to Rider Sports Information. “But overall, we didn’t come out with any energy or enthusiasm. We just did not play well.”

On the bright side for the Broncs, junior defensive specialist Amy Jeary had 17 digs with sophomore outside hitter Katelyn Thompson adding 11 kills. Sophomore Kristy Love also added four blocks for Rider.

The Broncs, who have had their best start since 2003, winning five of six entering the match, were poised to win; but the first set saw Fairfield jump out 4-0, and a 12-6 run gave the Stags a 10-point lead in the first set win.

As for the second match, the teams were tied at two before Rider went on an 8-4 run, giving the Broncs a 10-6 lead. The Stags responded with a comeback, taking the lead by one. Rider went on a 5-0 run to earn a four point lead before the Stags came within reach, but Rider prevailed with a winning set. Rider has won eight of the nine sets this season that were decided by two points.

The overall match saw nine ties and five lead changes with four ties and three lead changes coming in the second set. Rider led 5-3 in the fourth set before the Stags came storming back with a 7-0 run on their way to another 14-point win and the clincher of the match.

The team continued its conference schedule by traveling to take on the St. Peter’s College Peahens.

Despite 16 assists from sophomore Amanda Piccolini and Grassmuck, the Broncs lost another conference match.

The Peahens won in four sets 25-17, 19-25, 25-19, 25-20.

“We played uninspired today,” Ahlquist said to Rider Sports Information. “We looked and played slow the whole weekend.”

On the brighter side, Jeary had 16 digs and senior Lacey Johnson had 12 digs. Junior Brittany Hayes added 10 kills for the Broncs.

In the opening set, St. Peter’s led 12-9 and went on a 4-0 run, winning by eight. In the second set, Rider hit .417 and broke a 17-17 tie with a 4-0 run led by Piccolini en route to a second set win by the Broncs. Rider led by one in the fourth set before the Peahens raged back, going on a 5-0 run that eventually won the match. The Broncs last defeated the Peahens in 2004.
After starting the season with 11 of 12 matches on the road, the team will look to serve up some home-style wins on its own turf.

The team will play host to five straight home games beginning tomorrow against Canisius at 2 p.m.

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