Rider finishes MAAC roadtrip with loss and win

By Andrew Smolar

IN search of some sort of spark in a rough start to their season, Rider volleyball regained some momentum with a win on Sept. 17 following a defeat by Iona the day prior. The much-needed victory against Manhattan was their second of the season.

‘We fought well’

The Broncs kicked off the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference portion of their schedule with a tight match against Iona on Sept. 16 where three sets were decided by two points.

The Gaels scored the first point of the initial set and never allowed Rider to hold a lead.

A four-point surge from Iona stretched their lead to 7-2. Iona had a cushion of at least three during the majority of the set. They held a lead as large as eight thanks to a 6-2 run that made the score 20-12 before eventually winning the first set 25-18.

The second set of the day started slowly for Rider, with the Gaels scoring the first four points. The Broncs never went away, however.

After the early deficit, the Broncs went on a 8-4 run with good, methodical play to get back within one at 9-8. 

The Gaels responded with a 4-1 run that stretched the lead back up to four at 16-12.

Rider finally got the set even and took the lead thanks to a 3-0 run that put them ahead 24-23, eventually winning the set 27-25 to turn a definite defeat into a win.

Head Coach Jeff Rotondo was pleased with the fight his team showed after the first set.

“We needed that to help with our mindset after set one,” Rotondo said. “We escaped with that set two win, and thought we fought well at times in set three.”

The third set of the day was tight with neither team gaining any separation until a three-point surge by Iona, which put them ahead 9-6. That was part of an overall 6-1 run by the Gaels that gave them a 12-7 advantage, their largest of the set.

That comfort didn’t last long, however, as Rider responded with four unanswered points as part of an 8-2 run that gave Rider the lead at 15-14. 

Iona responded with a 10-5 run, including five consecutive points to win the set 25-23.

The fourth set was also close. Neither team held a lead of more than two until the Broncs went on a 4-1 run that opened up a 14-11 edge.

Despite the Gaels going on a 7-4 run to even the set at 18, Rider immediately answered with three points in a row to grab the lead back. It held a lead as large as five thanks to a 6-1 run that made it 24-19, seemingly locking in the win.

Iona soon changed the whole set by scoring six unanswered points to go up 25-24. They eventually pulled away 28-26 to win the match 3-1 and avoid a fifth set.

Rotondo pointed to attitude as being the main thing his team needs to fix during the final two sets.

“When you have a 22-19 lead and then a 24-19 lead, there just needs to be a tougher attitude to close,” Rotondo said.

A bounceback win

The Broncs were able to bounce back with a win on Sept. 17 against Manhattan, finishing the match 3-1.

“This is something we needed as we know what we are capable of,” Rotondo said.

The set featured nine lead changes and 18 ties with no team ever establishing momentum for any lengthy period of time. 

The Jaspers won the set in extras 29-27 to take the early advantage.

The Broncs were able to bounce back with a 25-16 win in the second set. They initially grabbed a lead thanks to a 4-0 run that put them up 7-4. Another 4-0 run shortly after ensured the lead to six at 12-6. 

Manhattan responded with five unanswered points to get within one. The set was tight until Rider carved out some separation with a 4-0 run, before also scoring the final five points of the set.

Rider kept the momentum going into the third set, started by scoring the first four points. 

After the Jaspers responded with an 8-3 run to take the lead, the Broncs scored the set’s next three points as part of an 8-1 run that put them ahead 15-9.

Rider was never threatened again as it ended the set on a 7-2 run to win in comfortable fashion 25-17.

The Broncs were able to close out the victory in the fourth set due to one big run and a strong finish. 

After some back-and-forth play to start the set, Rider found themselves trailing by two at 10-8. 

After some back-and-forth play to start the set, Rider found themselves trailing by two at 10-8. 

The Broncs responded by scoring nine unanswered points to turn that small deficit into a big lead. That was enough to allow them to coast to the finish as they also ended the set on a 6-1 run to win in blowout fashion 25-15. 

“The killer mindset was great,” Rotondo said. “We were not making unforced errors, we were serving and defending well, and attacking aggressively but not reckless.”

The Broncs next game will be against Marist on Sept. 20 at 7 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN+.

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