By Luke Lombardi
Every team wants to repeat as conference champions, and Rider volleyball continued its quest back to glory, as they defeated both Siena and Marist on Oct. 3 and 4.
The Broncs had a three-game winning streak in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) play, heading into the first match against the Siena Saints.
Rider lost the first set against Siena before they took the next three and the victory. Junior opposite Morgan Romano ended the match with 24 kills and 13 digs. Senior setter Anilee Sher led the team with 48 assists.
“Morgan is a special talent as an attacker. She has a knack for scoring even when teams are doubling her,” Head Coach Jeff Rotondo said in an email. “The thing I am becoming happier with is her desire to get better on the block and defensive end. She has been passing great for us, but I have been on her pretty good about her defense and blocking, and she is making great strides in those areas.”
A big factor that has contributed to the team’s success is its overall confidence. Sher said the team is going into games with lots of momentum.
“It’s really helpful for our mindset to know that, obviously, we have a lot of improvement to make and there’s a lot more left in us to develop,” Sher said. “But we were able to stick together and find wins this weekend.”
The Broncs have also found success on their home floor with three of the five wins coming at Alumni Gym. Romano, who has had family come to some of the games this season, is elated to have people cheering in the stands.
“It makes me feel really good. It boosts my confidence a lot knowing that there’s a lot of fans there and they did really good this weekend cheering for us yesterday and today,” Romano said. “We’re very grateful for all of them that came out.”
Against Marist, the third set proved to be quite intense as the Red Foxes gained a 2-1 advantage after winning it 25-21. Then the Broncs stormed back and won sets four and five, holding Marist to under 15 points in each.
What changed for them? Rotondo attributed it all to the team’s mindset.
“It is something we talk about a lot, and making sure we are coming out in certain sets with a specific focus and mindset,” Rotondo said. “We try to find a motivational video that we can tie in throughout the match. The team deserves the credit for not letting the way sets two and three unfolded carry over to set four. They executed really well, and we made some changes to get some more height on our block. [Freshman middle hitter Christina Blount] came in and slowed down and/or blocked a lot of attacks. I think that helped a good amount, as well as our ability to not go to a bad mental place after losing set three.”
The Broncs extended their winning streak to five games after the Marist victory. Romano led the team with 14 kills. Senior outside hitter Jillian Chan was right behind her with 11. Sher finished the match with the same amount of assists she had against Siena with 48.
Rider’s next game will be against the Manhattan Jaspers on Oct. 6 at 7 p.m.