By Dylan Manfre and Teagan Schein-Becker
Rider volleyball sat in third place in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) standings heading into a four-game homestand to end the season. The Broncs started the homestand by earning a 3-0 victory over Manhattan on Nov. 6 and a 3-1 win vs. Iona on Nov. 7.
Rider faced a Manhattan team that was in the doldrums of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) at 2-12 entering Nov. 6. The Broncos had their final homestand of the season with a victory in straight sets against the Jaspers.
Rider battled for every point in the first set and by no means did they come easy. The Broncs’ seventh point of the match, a kill from freshman middle hitter Christina Blount, came after an intense volley lasting nearly two minutes.
Senior middle hitter Caprice Clarke helped the Broncs keep a Jasper comeback at bay in the first set with a soft-touch kill over the net. It did not even require a full extension of her arm to score Rider’s 20th point of the set.
The scoring pace slowed overall in set two but that was because of incredible digs from Rider and exceptional blocking by the Jaspers. Sophomore Libero Molly Strah made an incredible one-handed dig early in the set to keep the point alive but it went to the Jaspers in the end.
Manhattan was on Rider’s tails throughout the second set and it seemed to have the momentum after going on multiple small runs to claim a lead. After Iona scored its 17th point, which was part of a 4-2 run, Rider Head Coach Jeff Rotondo called timeout.
“Just settling in and pointing out a couple of things that [Manhattan was] having success with that we weren’t,” Rotondo said of the conversation during the timeout. “That conversion was really ‘Hey guys, let’s not overreact to this.’”
Rider sneaked out the second set victory 25-20 taking a two-set lead. Sophomore outside hitter Tori Schrader led the Broncs with eight kills entering the third set but did have a fair share of her attempts blocked by the Jaspers.
“It happens,” Schrader said. “Just have to put it behind you.”
A theme of the match was Manhattan staying in Rider’s vicinity through the first seven to 10 points of the sets. In sets two and three, it took a while for anyone to pull away and gain a clear advantage.
Rider had a three-point lead, 18-14 in the third set before Manhattan took a timeout. The momentum was up in the air as the athletes soared for a kill or block. Senior outside hitter Jillian Chan, who finished the match with nine kills, put Rider up , 22-16 in the third set and from there it seemed as though Rider regained its footing and eventually pulled away with the win 25-17.
Manhattan volleyball was in the news recently because its head coach Lora Sarich Egber is unvaccinated and received an exemption, per The Quadrangle, the student newspaper of Manhattan College. The New York Post also reported that Egber was unvaccinated after The Quadrangle released its article.
“I know on the road trip they just went on she was able to travel with them and I’m sure it helps,” Rotondo said. “That’s got to be a tough situation not being able to have that. I know her personal reasons for [being unvaccinated.]”
Rider started the first set with a strong five-point lead ahead of Iona on Nov. 7.
Iona pulled ahead with a 19-16 lead and Rider was not far behind when the Gaels called for a timeout.
Iona inched out a close 25-22 victory in the opening set.
The second set started with a quick pace. Rider and Iona were 5-5 until Iona pulled ahead with a two-point lead.
Junior opposite hitter Morgan Romano pulled Rider back into a 12-12 tie after getting her sixth kill of the match. Iona pulled ahead of Rider again 17-13, forcing Rider to call for a timeout.
Iona and Rider came close again at 19-18, only a point apart when Iona called for a timeout. Rider resiliently hopped into the lead with a win of the second set at 25-22 with the help of Romano’s 11 kills.
Rider stayed in the lead with high energy in the third set. The Broncs maintained a strong lead ahead of Iona for a while and maintained a strapping hold of the set. Rider won the set 25-15 and seemed to get more inflow and look like its normal self.
“Third and fourth set we started getting on a run with [senior setter Anilee Sher] getting back to serve … it just allowed us to do what we do,” Rotondo said. “Our passers got into a groove, which allowed our hitters to get into a groove.”
An animated crowd for Rider was exhilarated when the team got three kills in a row and gained them a lead of 10 points. The Broncs carried on with their victory with a score of 20-10 en route to a fourth-set and match victory, 3-1.
The Rider team was down in set two where they had to show a lot of resiliency to carve out the win over the Gaels.
“We’ve shown it a lot this year,” Rotondo said. “We might not play well in the first set but all of a sudden we’re going to turn it on and they’re going to find a way. So we have to have that resiliency a little bit more.”