UPDATE: Top-seeded Fairfield has withdrawn from the conference tournament after a positive coronavirus test, according to a news release on March 31. No. 8 Siena will play the winner of Rider and Manhattan.
By Dylan Manfre
Fall sports teams at Rider watched what a pandemic season looked like with basketball. From myriad schedule changes to fluctuating routines, the volleyball team got its first taste last week.
Saint Peter’s was slated to travel down Interstate 95 and play the Broncs in Alumni Gym, however, the Peacocks canceled the remainder of their regular season because of COVID-19 related issues on March 23.
“Leading up to the game we were kind of wondering what they were going to end up doing just because we knew they had a few cases,” senior outside hitter Ali Ward said. “And when they decided that they were just opting out of the season completely, it wasn’t something that we were expecting.”
Head Coach Jeff Rotondo, who led the Broncs to a 4-4 record in his second year at the helm, reached out to Quinnipiac, Niagara, Siena and Iona to see if either team had an interest in scheduling a game, but none of the situations transpired. Rotondo cited timing as an issue with scheduling if Rider wanted to hold the game on its original date of March 26.
“Nobody could make it work. Niagara [played on March 24], they played Siena as a make-up. Iona was considering it, but adding a bus trip and [COVID-19] testing was going to kill their budget a little bit,” Rotondo said. “Same thing with Siena. [Head Coach Vilis Ozols,] he was like, ‘I just can’t get down there and make it work.’”
Replacing the Saint Peter’s matchup was a Cranberry and White scrimmage, which also functioned as the team’s senior day when Ward, along with libero Danielle Blanco, were honored for their contributions to the program which was streamed for parents who could not attend the impromptu match.
Team Cranberry won the contest 2-1 and Rotondo served as the official.
MAAC tournament update
Although players on the team would have liked an actual opponent over a scrimmage, the Broncs have their sights on the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) tournament in Albany, New York.
The common numeral seems to be four, since the Broncs ended the regular season at 4-4 and are locked up as the No. 4 seed in the tournament. Rider will battle Manhattan, who it beat 3-0 and 3-1 in a March 21 doubleheader in Draddy Gymnasium in the first round of the MAAC tournament on April 1.
Ward cited that committing errors is one of the key things the Broncs need to mitigate.
“I think we’re going to work a lot on our serve receives, serving and staying aggressive and definitely just working on our errors,” Ward said. “I think if there is one thing we need to work on it’s definitely our errors throughout the past games. We’ve just been a little bit high-error.”
The winner of Rider’s game against the Jaspers will play whoever emerges victorious in the match between No. 1 Fairfield and No. 8 Siena.