By Andrew Smolar
By Andrew Smolar
In its weekend trip through New York, Rider volleyball went 1-1 in two Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) games, taking a 1-3 loss to Marist and a 3-1 victory over Siena.
Volleyball dropped a conference matchup with MAAC rival Marist on Oct. 29, where the Red Foxes took the game three sets to one, with each set being decided by at least six points.
The first set was a slow start for Rider, but one they never recovered from. After the first two points were split, there were numerous Marist runs that made it tough for the Broncs to catch up. The Red Foxes would score back-to back-points four times, three points in a row three times and add another 4-0 run throughout the set. The Broncs never had a run larger than two. This all led to a dominant 25-14 victory for Marist in the first set during which Rider never held a lead.
The ability to string points together is something Head Coach Jeff Rotondo wanted to see out of his team. “Definitely stringing points together is a key to winning,” Rotondo said. “We struggled early and then throughout the match, as our energy and focus were not where they needed to be.”
The second set went much better for the Broncs. In what was virtually a role reversal from the first set, the Broncs started fast and built on it with multiple runs throughout. After splitting the first two points, Rider would take over, where they would score the set’s next three points and never look back. Three different two point runs combined with another 3-0 and 4-0 run throughout the set built a lead for the Broncs that the Red Foxes couldn’t overcome. Rider would take the second set 25-19 and never let Marist have that lead.
Rotondo was more pleased with his team’s performance in the second set. “We just got into a rhythm offensively and we were able to execute better vs the offense,” Rotondo said. “We stayed away from going high error in that second set, and when we do that, we have a chance to beat a lot of teams.”
Unlike the first two sets, the third set was tightly contested for a while. No team had a lead of more than two until the middle of the set when a Marist run opened things up. After trailing 10-8, the Red Foxes would score seven of the next eight points to open up a four point lead. The Broncs responded to that run by scoring four out of the next five points to bring it back within one, but four straight points by Marist opened the lead up to five as they took the third set 25-19.
The fourth was closely contested, until a monster run by the Red Foxes blew the game open. After leading 5-4, it all fell apart for Rider. A 10-1 run by Marist erased any memory of a Rider lead, where Marist would tack on another 4-0 run later on and win the final set convincingly 25-15.
The monster run by the Red Foxes is something that Rotondo was not pleased with in the slightest. “The 10-1 run is just something that is unacceptable,” Rotondo said. “We showed spurts of physicality versus Marist, but [we] need to sustain and not allow scoring runs to drain energy and focus.”
Energy and focus
Volleyball bounced back from a rough outing on 10/29 with a conference victory over MAAC rival Siena on Oct. 30.
The first set was a game of runs that could be defined by a strong Rider finish. After allowing six straight points to Siena and trailing by four, it appeared the set was going to get away from the Broncs; however, they responded to that run by scoring four of the next five points to cut the lead to one. The two teams would then trade points for a while, until the Broncs finished the set on a strong run. After trailing 16-15, Rider would score six of the next seven points, as well as four out of the set’s last five to win the set 25-19.
The strong finish to the set is something Head Coach Jeff Rotondo was happy to see. “We do focus on strong finishes, and try to implement certain stresses in practice to make the finish strong,” Rotondo said. “The runs were a testament to them really being focused, and executing the game plan with great energy.”
The second set was a different story. Rider never held a lead, and struggled throughout the set. The Saints started the set on a 5-1 run and also scored five points in a row shortly after to quickly open an eight point lead. They would also score six of the set’s final seven points to win the set 25-14 in lopsided fashion.
The third set, unlike the second, went right down to the wire. Rider started the set strong, scoring six of the first seven points. The Saints would match that start with a 6-1 run of their own to even the score 7-7. The set would then go back and forth, with neither team holding a lead of more than two until the Broncs would score five points in a row to open up a three-point lead at 21-18. Siena would respond with three consecutive points to knot things up at 21. The teams would then trade points, until Rider found it in them to score back-to-back points and end the set with a 26-24 victory.
“We had faced a good amount of adversity in that 3rd set, especially coming off a less than stellar second set,” Rotondo said. “We had a different lineup, with Julia Slivka stepping in as libero for the first time in her career. There were some sparks that came from that, and times we executed really well.”
The final set was also tightly contested. Rider would again start the set strong with a five-point lead at 9-4, to which Siena would respond with five of the next six points to cut the lead to one. The Broncs thenopened the lead up to six with a 5-0 run. The Saints would again make things interesting by stringing a 6-1 run together to trim the lead back down to one. Eventually, Rider finally put Siena away with a 3-0 run to open up a four point lead at 23-19 and held on to win 25-22.
Rider moved to 8-16 with the win, as just four games remain before the MAAC Tournament begins. The Broncs will look to make a late climb up the standings when they invite Canisius into Alumni Gym on Nov. 5.