By Andrew Smolar
While it began the season with Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Championship dreams, Rider volleyball’s season thus far has been more akin to a series of night terrors, as the Broncs fell to 5-15 after being swept by the Quinnipiac Bobcats on Oct. 15 and the Fairfield Stags on Oct. 16.
‘The errors lost us this match’
Volleyball dropped a conference matchup against Quinnipiac on Oct. 15 as the Bobcats swept the Broncs in three quick sets with none of them being within more than three points.
The first set was competitive, with each team making a run in it. After trailing 9-7, Rider was able to rally off six consecutive points to open up a four point lead. However, Quinnipiac responded with five unanswered points of their own to grab the lead back. After that, it was back-and-forth for the most part, with the Bobcats eventually pulling away to win the set 25-22.
The second set started off nicely for the Broncs. A few attack errors from the Bobcats combined with a couple of kills gave Rider a 5-0 lead right off the bat, which would be the highpoint. After that, Quinnipiac scored seven straight points to erase any memory of a Rider lead. The Bobcats outscored the Broncs 25-10 after the initial surge from Rider to take the set 25-15.
The third set started off poorly for the Broncs, with Quinnipiac opening up the set with four points in a row. Rider was then able to rally and grab the lead for themselves with a 6-1 run. However, it was all downhill from there. The Bobcats responded by scoring seven of the next eight points as well as finishing with the set’s last six. Quinnipiac outscored Rider 20-7 down the stretch and took the final set 25-13 to complete the sweep.
In addition to the lopsided score, the Broncs trailed the Bobcats in almost every major statistic. They had fewer kills (35-25), aces (10-5), blocks (6-2) and assists (31-25). The lone edge in the stat category for Rider was in digs (30-27).
Head Coach Jeff Rotondo was not pleased with any particular area of his team’s performance.
“There was not one phase we executed well,” Rotondo said. “This was not a good loss, not good effort and focus was terrible.”
In a game where a lot went wrong, the Broncs were most frustrated at the amount of errors they committed. Rider had a total of 24 errors throughout the afternoon, exactly twice as many as Quinnipiac. The Broncs had 10 attack errors in the first set alone, which made a big difference in a close set.
Rotondo was especially not pleased with the amount of errors Rider made, as this has been the case for much of the season.
“The errors lost us this match and have lost us a lot of matches this season,” Rotondo said. “Overall it’s a huge problem that we haven’t solved yet. Maybe it’s personnel, maybe it’s focus… either way, it needs to be corrected.”
‘We will need to be more consistent’
Volleyball got swept in a conference matchup against Fairfield on Oct. 16, the second straight defeat that ended in a sweep, having lost to Quinnipiac just a day prior.
The first set started strongly for Rider. They scored the first four points of the set and also had another four unanswered points later on to build a lead of six at 13-7. However, the Stags responded with five points of their own and outscored the Broncs 18-7 from that point on to take the set 25-20.
Rider came out strongly in the second set as well. They again scored the first four points of the set to build an early lead. Similar to the first set, Fairfield responded to the initial surge from the Broncs to put up five straight points. The set then went back-and-forth for a while until the Stags scored four points in a row to build a five point lead at 21-16. Rider would rally to cut the lead to one at 22-21, but it was too late: Fairfield scored the last three points of the set, and won 25-21.
“The fast starts were great, but as good as Fairfield is, we knew they would make runs,” Rotondo said. “We will need to be more consistent on offense and be creative to find ways to score and to hold leads versus top quality opponents.”
The final set was closely contested, neither team having a lead larger than three until the end of the game. Each team had a run of four unanswered points during the set. The Broncs held a late lead at 19-18 but couldn’t hold on, the Stags scoring the set’s next four points and seven of the last eight to take the final set 25-20.
Rider was edged out in most key team statistics. Fairfield had more kills (40-27), blocks (8-6) and assists (35-26). The Broncs were able to accumulate more aces (4-3) and digs (50-47). The errors were virtually even, with Rider committing 20 and the Stags committing 19.
“Sunday was a much better feel overall to the match,” Rotondo said. “We can definitely consider this a positive loss with a lot of things we can take away that were good.”
Eight more conference matches remain for the Broncs, as they sit at 3-7 in MAAC play, placing them in eighth in the standings. Rider will get back to work on Oct. 19 when they take on the Iona Gaels for the second time this season, the first meeting being a sweep in favor of the Gaels.