Marist volleyball shocked Rider with a second-half resurgence, completing the reverse sweep and winning after being down two sets to none. The Red Foxes won their sets 25-22, 25-23, and the overtime set 15-11 in Marist’s second consecutive MAAC road win of the trip.
This is Marist’s first match in MAAC play going farther than three sets, having either swept or been swept by their previous opponents. Coming off of a controlled and seamlessly easy victory over St. Peters on Saturday, Marist looked to face an opponent who appeared incomplete when playing in their early conference matches.
“Sunday should be good,” said head coach Sean Byron before the weekend series. “It’s tough, because they had some kids that were sick last weekend, and they only had seven players.”
Marist’s own roster was battling injuries, but their offense was back on track despite Claire Lewis sitting out due to a concussion, confirmed by Byron. Jordan Newblatt, out with a concussion last weekend, was a clear difference maker for the entire game plan and gave Marist a much-needed weapon to complete their attacking chemistry, one they lacked against reigning MAAC champions Fairfield when Newblatt sat last weekend.
The Broncs appeared to have a complete roster today, with 12 players under the net for the Broncs throughout the five sets. Most notably, returning to the Broncs for the 2022 season is the All-MAAC opposite-hitter Morgan Romano, who was the toughest weapon to deal with through all five sets of the contest. Romano finished with 22 kills through five sets backed up by three other Rider hitters with more than 10 kills.
While Marist lost two consecutive sets, the first four sets were determined by a difference of three points or less. Marist kept composure in the marathon of rallies against Rider, but was never down more than five points in any set today. The Red Foxes had plenty of opportunities to take the first set from the Broncs, but a consistent use of substitutions on the Rider side proved Marist was unable to keep up in their first set against Rider this season. The Broncs took a more aggressive approach than the Red Foxes in their attack plan, racking up five more service errors but getting more opportunities to go for kills and utilizing those opportunities.
While it felt like Marist’s attack was slow to get started, outside hitter Jordan Newblatt wasted no time getting back into comfortable form. Newblatt was unable to play the previous weekend due to a concussion confirmed by coach Byron during the middle of last week, but was ready to go before the weekend began and didn’t lose any confidence. Newblatt and Gabrielle hitter finished with 14 kills a piece, and aggressive play allowed her to lead the team in digs and give Marist the push they needed to rebound from a two-set deficit.
The second set continued to be a challenge for the Red Foxes to string together consistent runs of offense in the latter half, whereas Rider was comfortable and had perfect sets from setters Sydney Bond and Julia Slivka. Marist, having lost every match this season starting out down two, needed a spark from their offense to get their clean play style back in the saddle.
Enter Sasha van der Merwe. The outside hitter racked up seven kills in the third set as Marist was able to eclipse Rider’s early lead and build up a comfortable seven point lead with six points to go in the third set. Van der Merwe led the team with 17 kills and showed up especially in the third and fifth sets with defeat on the line, providing the Red Fox starters no reasons to yield and used that energy to win those close sets instead of falling short.
While Marist’s attack is highlighted by their outside rotation, both Vanessa Zolg and Alyssa White made notable contributions on the day on the attacking front, each with seven kills. A complete starting rotation allowed Marist to continue to scramble defenders in the later sets and gave the two middle hitters opportunities to strike and give Marist the competitive edge. White had five blocks and a .750 hit percentage to complement her impressive showing and allowed Marist to fire on all cylinders against a dwindling Broncs lineup in the later sets
In the end, Marist’s endurance is what won them the contest, as Rider backed down on the attacking front as Marist revamped their hitting percentage, allowing them to be efficient and giving them the ability to go on runs that Rider failed to keep up with.
Marist will look to continue their road winning streak and close the road trip with their second matchup against Quinnipiac this season. That matchup is scheduled for 7 p.m. this Wednesday night.
Edited by Andrew Hard
Photo from Sofia Sarzosa