The Marist volleyball team began their season Friday on the road at the UB Invite, hosted by the University of Buffalo. The Red Foxes squared off with three teams over a two-day long period, the Alabama Crimson Tide, the Colgate Raiders, and the host Buffalo Bulls. Marist left the tournament winless, losing matches 3-0, 3-2, and 3-0, respectively.
This was the first tournament under new head coach Sean Byron, who came to Poughkeepsie from the University of Michigan, where he was an assistant coach for three seasons. While the result wasn’t at all how the team hoped to begin their new campaign, Byron’s looking at the big picture.
“It helps us prepare for the MAAC,” said Byron.
In Marist’s first match against the Crimson Tide, the two teams went back-and-forth, at least throughout the first set, in which Byron felt his team looked “pretty shaky.” Marist would lose the set by a score of 25-20.
The Red Foxes got off to a poor start to begin the second set and were playing from behind early on. “We had to claw back into it,” said Byron. “We fought back into it and then we couldn’t close the door.” Marist lost the second set 25-19.
Down 0-2, the Foxes could have folded in the third set, and instead they “did the complete opposite,” said Byron. They had a 16-14 lead at one point, and then they made two spike errors, and could not put the Crimson Tide away. The sweep ended with a 25-17 loss.
Senior outside hitter Megan Fergus was able to keep Alabama’s second-team all-SEC outside hitter Doris Carter at bay. Fergus “blocked her out of the match,” Byron said, allowing Marist to keep the scores close throughout the match.
Then came Saturday, and the first of two matches against the Colgate Raiders. The Red Foxes took the Raiders to five sets. The Raiders took the first and third sets by scores of 25-20 and 25-10. The Red Foxes earned their first set win of the season in the second set by a score of 25-15, and also took the fourth set by a score of 25-20. They ultimately dropped the fifth set by a score of 15-9, losing the match 3-2.
“I liked our chances,” said Byron. “Colgate wasn’t as physical as Alabama. I thought we played better volleyball.”
The Red Foxes played a great first set, then made errors once the score was 20-20. “It was the most competitive set,” continued the coach. “It was a really fun match to be in. We came back from the third set and controlled the fourth, and had the lead in the fifth before making three errors. We have to be able to close the door.”
Their last matchup of the tournament came later Saturday evening against the Bulls. Buffalo swept Marist by scores of 25-19, 25-20, and 25-10 in each set, respectively.
The Red Foxes struggled against Buffalo. The Bulls had two players over 6-feet tall, and one of them was a “high flyer,” according to Byron. “We didn’t have a block in the match. We couldn’t contain them.”
Overall, Byron was proud of his team’s effort throughout the tournament. “Our kids fought hard… They didn’t give up.”
Sophomore setter McKinley Fox, junior outside hitter Sarah Austin, and Fergus all had great weekends. Byron pointed out Fox in particular, lauding her “amazing” play “against the best-serving teams in the tournament.” She finished the tournament with a total of 95 assists and 13 digs. Austin had a total of 33 kills and 21 digs, and Fergus had 30 kills and 6 blocks to end the tournament.
The Red Foxes look to bounce back next weekend at the Hampton Inn-vitational in Smithfield, Rhode Island, hosted by Bryant University. There, Marist will face Villanova University, the University of North Dakota, and Bryant.
“We just have to keep with our system and make tactical improvements this week,” said Byron. “We have to be aggressive attacking-wise. What we get away with in the practice gym, we don’t when we play high-level teams.”
The team will also reunite with former Red Fox, now Bryant assistant coach, Taylor van der Biezen. “It’ll be great to see her,” said Byron. “It’ll be nice to be across the net, but she won’t be playing.”
Edited by Will Bjarnar