By Stephen Neukam
The MAAC Tournament semifinals were the end of the road for the volleyball team’s record-setting season, after a loss to Canisius on Nov. 16 in four sets at ESPN’s World Wide of Sports.
Rider, who was the No. 3 seed in the tournament, defeated tenth-seeded Siena in the first round on Nov. 15 and No. 8 St. Peter’s in the quarterfinals on Nov. 16 to advance to the semifinals. The Broncs won both of those games 3-1.
The semifinal contest started on the wrong foot for Rider, which dropped the first two sets by a score of 25-13 and 25-19.
The Broncs then took the third set after a clutch kill by senior hitter Hailey Riede and an error by Canisius, bringing the score of the game to 2-1 with a 26-24 victory in the set.
Rider brought the same momentum into the next set and jumped to a 7-1 lead in the set. Canisius battled back and killed off any hope of a Bronc comeback by scoring the final three points and securing a 25-21 win to advance to its first-ever MAAC Championship match.
“We gave everything we had tonight,” said Head Coach Chris Feliciano. “The team fought tooth and nail to rally from being down 2-0.”
Riede finished the game with a team-leading 14 kills. She was followed by senior hitter Savannah Logan, who posted 12 kills. Junior libero Rachelle Runyon finished with 23 digs.
Rider finished the season with a 19-11 record, which was its best record since 1994. It was also the first time the Broncs had advanced to the semifinals since 2004. The 19 wins were the most under Feliciano, whose previous best was 17.
“We took big steps forward in terms of relevancy within the league,” said Feliciano. “This is, without a question, a special group and, with 13 players returning, it’s truly an exciting time to be part of our program.”
Riede ended the season with 315 kills, followed by Logan’s 271, which put them eighth and 10th in the conference, respectively. Runyon posted 574 digs on the season, which put her at second in the conference. Freshman setter Anilee Sher finished second in the conference in service aces and fifth in assists.
Riede was voted onto the All-MAAC First Team. Runyon received Second Team honors and Sher was selected to the MAAC All-Rookie Team for her performances during her freshman campaign.
Riede, who won the 2015 MAAC Rookie of the Year award, is the first Bronc to win league-wide awards more than once.
She had been named to the All-MAAC First Team each of the last three years. She leaves Rider third in program history in kills.
Rider’s success broke a number of previous records. The 12 wins in the MAAC was the most for the team since joining the conference.
The team claimed the third seed in the MAAC tournament, which was the first time the Broncs had done so. The appearance in the semifinal was the second in program history.
“I believe this team will carry the same success over into next year, if not more,” said Sher. “We work really well together and love playing together and if we continue the same work ethic we had all year, I think we can have another very fun and successful year.”
With a number of accolades this season and a large portion of the current team returning, there is no doubt the Broncs will be itching to compete again in 2019.