After two straight road victories, the Marist volleyball team returned to the friendly confines of McCann arena to face MAAC opponent Rider. Both teams brought in modest winning streaks and above .500 conference records to Saturday’s matchup. Unfortunately for the Red Foxes, (9-12, 7-4 MAAC) they dropped three of their tightest sets in quick succession to Rider, (10-13, 7-4 in MAAC play) 29-27, 26-24, 29-27.
The Red Foxes started well, taking an early 6-3 lead over the Broncs, punctuated by a Megan Fergus kill. But Marist would soon become their own worst enemy in the first set; six service errors allowed Rider to keep things tight and they were eventually able to obtain an 18-14 lead. Marist coach Sean Byron used one of his timeouts and Marist was able to rally back to retake the lead 22-21.
The teams went back and forth and it was Marist who had multiple set point chances, but a service error after a Madelyn Waumans kill allowed Rider to tie things up at 26. Rider was able to dig out two Megan Fergus kill attempts to get a set point of their own but Waumans came up clutch again to tie things at 27. Marist was unable to take advantage of this momentum swing and Rider’s Ali Ward was able to come up with two consecutive kills to give the Broncs the set, 29-27.
“It was really on us,” Byron said. “We had six service errors in the first set. We made five attack errors. That’s eleven points and when you think it’s not just eleven points, that’s eleven points that we gave them. We could win five of those just by putting the ball in play,” he added.
The Red Foxes looked as though they had all the energy taken from them at the beginning of the second game, falling behind 9-2. Marist was able to mount a comeback, led by Fergus, Waumans, and freshman Gabby Murray. The freshman came up with a kill to even the set at 22. A kill by Fergus and a Rider error gave the Red Foxes a look at a set point up 24-23, but the Broncs won three straight points on kills, finished off by the Rider team leader in kills, Morgan Romano, who gave her team the second set, 26-24.
“To be down 9-2 and be able to fight back into a deuce game where we don’t make some plays at the end… you just can’t dig yourself that big of a hole. I felt like we started to make some plays and then we’d serve a ball out of bounds,” Byron said.
Marist entered the third set in the dreaded 2-0 hole but kept fighting and played another back and forth set that provided them with more chances that they simply could not take advantage of. Marist was able to gain a 23-20 lead late in the set but allowed Rider to take the next three to even it at 23 apiece.
Asked where he thought Marist’s struggles to capitalize came from, Byron said, “It’s more of us, we just have to execute better and make individual plays.”
A Fergus kill gave Marist a set point, but Rider held tough, winning some marathon points and survived another set point to get themselves a match point at 28-27. It was Ali Ward who killed both the ball and the Red Fox hopes, giving her squad the straight-set victory.
Morgan Romano led the Broncs with 21 kills and Ward came in with 14 of her own to help give Rider their seventh MAAC win.
Megan Fergus and Madelyn Waumans had double-digit kills for the Red Foxes, who stayed on the court after the game to sign autographs for young volleyball players in attendance.
It will be a quick turnaround for Marist, who will take on MAAC bottom-dweller Saint Peter’s tomorrow at 1:00 in the McCann Center. As for Byron’s parting thoughts, he kept it simple: “I think the team who plays harder tomorrow will win.
Edited by Will Bjarnar