Rider ushers in pandemic-riddled season

By: Tara Coffey

After a year and a half of waiting for competition, the volleyball team is ready to kick off its season.

The last time Rider was able to compete was the fall 2019 season. It finished 15-16 overall and 12-6 in conference play. Head Coach Jeff Rotondo, who is entering his second year at the helm, feels confident about this upcoming season.

“It’s weird to put a thought on that, I mean obviously we’ve been dealing a lot with COVID, but what we are seeing in the gym is very, very positive,” Rotondo said. “Our expectation is to be in the group of the top two or three at the end of the season and giving ourselves a chance to compete for the championship.”

“We think we have the talent, it’s just a matter of can we put it together in a short amount of time and give ourselves a chance against team’s that actually returned a lot,” said Rotondo.

Rotondo spoke about how there are a lot of fresh faces on the team this season as many  seniors graudated last year.

Sophomore opposite hitter Morgan Romano, who was the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Rookie of the Year in 2019, said the team was able to practice in the fall following certain safety guidelines and it was able to help the team build relationships.

When asked what she is most looking forward to this upcoming season, Romano said, “I am most looking forward to having the opportunity to play because a lot of people aren’t able to. I am also looking forward to all the new people coming in and the new dynamic. We have a lot of potential this year.”

Even though there is lots of potential this season, there are also concerns, especially related to the youth of the team.

When asked about concerns, Rotondo said, “I guess just youth, and we are going to be young. Some starters on the floor who might be a little bit green as far as their experience at a college level. But we also have players who have been in the fire from last year, my first year here.”

“So, it’s just getting them to understand the systems in a quick and short amount of time,” said Rotondo. “How the game flows, the speed of the game.”

Rotondo talked about another concern being that the players may become tired due to many games being played in one day.

“The second concern would be fatigue. We are playing double-headers which is going to be different,” Rotondo stated. “We will play a five set match, turn around and two hours later play another match, so that could be a factor. So if fatigue sets in, we are going to have some other bodies on the floor that could be new at the game.”

Due to COVID-19, the Broncs made many adjustments. Rotondo continued to talk about how safety and health is most important, making sure they can play safely and not get shut down. 

While Rotondo recognizes that the team has to go into a ‘safety bubble’ for health reasons, and it affects the social dynamics of the players, the team seems to understand the necessity so they can play and remain healthy, just like every college.

“Some of our personal sacrifices for what we are trying to achieve, it will be worth it,” Rotondo said. “We will look back at it and say, yeah it was tough, but it was worth it.”

The first game is scheduled for March 7 against the Fairfield Stags.

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