By Luke Lombardi
When an unstoppable force meets an immovable object, one side has to give. On Oct. 10, Rider volleyball was forced to budge against Fairfield, losing in straight sets. This concludes a week where Rider went 2-1 overall to improve to 7-2 in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) play.
The Broncs started off the week really well. They traveled to Manhattan where they won in straight sets. Junior opposite hitter Morgan Romano led the team with 17 kills, while senior setter Anilee Sher paced the Broncs with 41 assists. Rider controlled the game from the start and never looked back, continuing its dominant stretch.
Rider’s last road game was Sept. 21 and Manhattan trips are interesting, to say the least.
“Manhattan is one of those trips, it always gets into our heads a little bit. It’s a gym that’s kinda funky to play in. It’s a big area. There’s no [air conditioning],” said Head Coach Jeff Rotondo, “Sometimes our kids get a little bit wayward with their thoughts. They don’t like playing there. It’s just a funky vibe when you are in that gym.”
The second game for the Broncs ended in similar fashion. This match took four sets to complete and ended in a 3-1 win for Rider. Senior middle hitter Caprice Clarke had an impressive defensive game with 10 blocks.
The most anticipated match of the weekend and the season so far was against Fairfield. Both teams were carrying huge winning streaks, coming into the match with Rider winning seven straight and Fairfield not losing a single set in six conference matches up to that point. Rider was also looking for revenge as its only MAAC loss leading into Oct. 10 was a 3-0 defeat to the Stags earlier in the season.
“I feel like it’s just another team. We don’t really think about ‘Oh, they haven’t lost any [games].’ But, obviously, we know it’s the best competition in the conference, so we need to play to our potential the best that we know that we can,” said Romano.
The first set was what everyone expected. The Broncs and Stags were going back and forth exchanging the lead. The atmosphere in the stands was as exciting as the match on the court as Alumni Gym was loud throughout the whole first set. In the end, Rider dropped the first set 25-22.
The second set started worse for Rider. At one point, the Stags led 10-4 and were looking to put the Broncs away before they could even get started. Rider was unable to close the gap as Fairfield maintained the six-point cushion until the very last point as they took the second set 25-18.
The Broncs ran out of gas in the third set which led to a one-sided affair. The Stags dismantled Rider, leading 15-5 early and eventually winning the set 25-12 and completing the sweep to end the Broncs winning streak and establish themselves as the top team in the conference.
Rider’s biggest downfall was the defense from Fairfield. The Broncs only had four blocks while the Stags had a staggering 18 over the three sets. Romano led the team with seven kills and Sher led the team with 25 assists.
Even though Rider finished the week 2-1, the team wasn’t happy about how the week ended.
“We did some good things. We did some things we would like to be better at. There are a lot of good things that we saw. There’s also some bad things we saw, so it was a little bit incomplete,” said Rotondo.
The Broncs, beginning a long road trip, travel up to Niagara on Oct. 16, looking to get back to their winning ways.