By Luke Lombardi
The volleyball team split a doubleheader with Canisius on March 19, losing the first match in five sets and winning the second match 3-0.
The first match of the day was a rollercoaster ride for the Broncs.
Rider won the first set 25-12 and proceeded to lose the next two sets in close fashion. Rider came back and dominated the fourth set before blowing a big lead and letting Canisius win the fifth set 16-14.
Head Coach Jeff Rotondo was not happy about losing the advantage in the first match.
“I don’t think there were any surprises. There were just phases we didn’t execute in the first match,” Rotundo said. “When we lost in five, if you go up 14-9, we have to finish. You know, we have to finish that match and win that match.”
The weirdness came in with the box score. Rider had 30 more points, double the kills and led the assist battle 60-23. Even with all that, they still lost the match.
Rider’s most dangerous offensive weapon was sophomore opposite hitter Morgan Romano, who had 20 kills in the match. Senior libero Danielle Blanco led the team with 27 digs, while junior setter Anilee Sher had 51 assists.
When it came to losing such a close game, Romano wasn’t concerned.
“It does not really get in my head when we lose close matchups,” Romano explained. “It honestly just makes me want to go out and beat our opponent in the next match of the day, so I feel like it kind of fires me and the rest of my team up to go out and play like we know how to.”
Rotundo said the team hammered home the fact that Rider dominated the stats and lost in match one.
He elaborated, “If anybody would look at just the stats and not the boxscore, they would think ‘Oh. This team won in three.’ But, when you have self-inflicted wounds [like] we had 19 serving errors in the first match. So, we’re going to have 19 serving errors and we’re going to have four in a set to 15. We also had six hitting errors. You’re giving them 10 free points in a set of 15. We have to look at that and say ‘Guys, these are all self-inflicted wounds.’”
Rotundo said the team hammered home the fact that the team needed to have the mentality of going for the kill and not letting Canisius get back into sets Rider should be winning, like during the fifth set in the first match.
Match two was a completely different story for Rider. They came out motivated and won three very close sets. Rider led Canisius by 10 points, 14 kills, 16 assists and 12 digs. Romano led the team with 21 kills while Danielle Blanco led with 18 digs and Anilee Sher had 42 assists.
“We came out ready to win and play as a team in match two. We knew that the first match of the day should have been ours, so we came out ready for the second match and obviously learned from our mistakes in the first one,” Romano said of the adjustments made in between the graphs. “We made errors that we should not have in the first match and we made less errors in the second match.”
When it comes to the team showing confidence, Rotundo explained, “The confidence, I think, is born out of them just trusting in each other and trusting in what we’ve done up to this point in practice and just going out and executing. I think sometimes we’ll doubt that and we’ll see them kind of get into that frozen moments and we just have to be better at that.”
Rider followed up their split with a statement victory over Manhattan on March 21, sweeping two matches with the Jaspers in their home gym.
The Broncs asserted their dominance in both matches, emerging victorious in all three sets of the first matchup with Manhattan before winning the second contest three sets to one.
Romano continued her strong sophomore campaign with over 30 kills between both matches, in the first match she had a double-double with 13 kills and an impressive 10 digs. In the last match of the week, Romano and senior outside hitter Ali Ward led the teams with 17 blocks each.
Rider will conclude its regular season on March 26 in its home gym when it takes on the Saint Peter’s Peacocks.