By Lauren Amour
Sitting at 2-6 following a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) tournament semifinals appearance in 2018, the volleyball team was away from Lawrenceville once again to compete in the Henson’s Hawk Invitational in Princess Anne, Maryland.
On September 16, the Broncs played against Maryland Eastern Shore, whom they previously had not faced since September 2016.
Although the Broncs lost 3-1, they put up 22 or more points in each of the four sets, with scores of 27-25, 25-22, 27-25 and 25-23. The loss to Eastern Shore marked Rider’s fifth consecutive loss to the Hawks. Their last win against the team came in 2010.
Freshman opposite hitter Morgan Romano continued to prove her worthiness of her two-time MAAC Rookie of the Week honors and recorded her third double-double of the season, with 22 kills and 12 digs.
Offensively, outside hitter Alexa Shello and middle hitter Evelyn Shanefield, both seniors, had seven kills each and sophomore setter Anilee Sher had 39 assists. Senior libero Rachelle Runyon, who came off of MAAC Libero of the Week honors, had a season-high 29 digs on the defensive end.
On day two of the invitational, a doubleheader against Robert Morris and Hampton was in store for the Broncs. After nearly 18 years without playing against the school, game one against Robert Morris tipped off on Sept. 14.
Even with a dominant, match tying second set that Rider won 25-15, Robert Morris jumped ahead on the Broncs by taking sets three and four by scores of 25-20 and 25-15.
Despite the loss, Romano and Sher impressed by each recording double-doubles, with Romano setting another career-high in digs with 21 and 14 kills, and Sher registering 34 assists and 13 digs.
The Broncs entered game two with a 2-8 record and looked to bounce back with a win against Hampton. Hampton won a marathon first set, 30-28. Rider, however, won the next three sets, 25-15, 25-8 and 25-18, and won by a score of 3-1 for its third win of the season.
The win against Hampton was Rider’s first against the team, as the Pirates and Broncs have never met before.
When asked about what he believed the team did well this weekend, head coach Jeff Rotondo said, “they played more together with the system.”
“With the first couple of weekends, we saw glimmers of that. This weekend was definitely a lot more consistent with the types of systems we’ve been teaching,” he continued. “I think the togetherness was really good. We were focusing a lot on if we could have the same energy level, all be on the same page. It seemed like they were more in tune with each other this weekend. The offense did a good job this weekend of stepping up.”
Junior Outside hitter Ali Ward delivered in both games of the doubleheader, recording 12 kills in game one and a career-high 15 kills in game two. Sophomore and fellow outside hitter Jillian Chan also put up a career-best with 10 kills. Romano remained consistent with her strong play, having 19 kills, five aces and five digs in game two.
On Sept. 17 the MAAC announced that Runyon had won her second consecutive Libero of the Week and Romano won her third straight Rookie of the Week.
Rider competes inits first home contest and MAAC contest on Sept. 21 against Iona in the Alumni Gym. Rotondo said he plans to prepare his team for their first taste of conference play after three weekends of tournaments by capitalizing off of what they did well over that span.
“A lot of the stuff we did with the tournaments with some tough competition was to prepare them for this weekend, to build off of the confidence and build off of the good spots we thought we had, and just take that into the first weekend,” he said.
The Broncs beat the Gaels 3-2 in their last meeting in November 2018 and have gone 7-3 in their last 10 matchups against Iona.