Marist volleyball was victorious in three straight sets against the St. Peter’s Peacocks in the final home game of the season, winning 25-18, 25-12, and 25-21.
In their last matchup against St. Peters, Marist swept the Peacocks without breaking a sweat, as the team has only one MAAC victory this season. The game plan today was replicable of their last St. Peter’s victory, in which Marist was comfortably in the lead for the first two sets. Jordan Newblatt led the team with eight kills and 10 digs, the only player to play in all three sets for the Red Foxes.
Being the home finale, it always comes with some bittersweet moments, and especially for Morgan Owens, McKinley Fox, and Gabby Heller, the players honored today on senior day. While the number of players isn’t large, all three players have been pillars for the program this year, with Fox and Owens being a part of the team for five years. Fox and Owens are multi-year captains, with Owens being the only four-time captain in Marist College athletic history.
“You can’t duplicate that leadership in terms of everything from a sweatshirt on the ground to making sure we’re here on time, just holding people accountable,” said head coach Sean Byron. “They’ve provided that for years.”
Each player was given a canvas mural of the three players together holding up the Red Fox symbol to signify the program’s appreciation for the veterans, as well as flowers from each of their families in the pregame ceremonies. Afterwards, it was time for the team to show out in their home finale.
“It’s tough,” said Owens. “Especially since this is the last home game. But I made a lot of good memories and really just so proud of this team and where we come from. It’s bittersweet.”
Marist had no real trouble against the Peacocks in the first set, starting off with three early service aces, two from Jaden Reasor and one from Sasha van der Merwe. Whenever Marist got their attack formation set, their opposition was unable to return kills in play. What ate Marist up the most was attack errors, with kills just going out of bounds and keeping the Peacocks within striking distance of Marist early.
Collecting themselves, the Peacocks put kills on the board led by middle blocker Morgan Thurlow (St. Peter’s season kill leader), and caused Marist to get scrambled when looking for second and third hits after Peacock hits. Marist’s offense was too much for the Peacocks to handle despite their impressive play, and van der Merwe, Heller, and Newblatt racked up 19 of the 20 kills Marist converted to points on the Peacocks, with Fox assisting on 13 of the kills herself.
The two teams continued to remain within five points of each other when Alyssa White delivered her first two kills of the contest, one hitting the back corner and another being her signature spike in the field of Peacock defenders. This kickstarted a 11-2 run for Marist, with near-perfect offensive play highlighted by the middle blocker.
St. Peter’s was unable to return kills from the middle having to worry about the strength of their outside play, and Marist subbed in Jaya Bhagat, Anne Mahler and Julianna Lavner towards the end of the set and continued to dominate as the Marist bench got rowdy, taking the second set by a margin of 13 points.
“We get pretty rowdy on the bench when they’re in,” said Fox. “They did an awesome job coming in, being efficient and finishing it out. You didn’t really see a huge difference from the starting line to the second string.”
Byron left in his subs for the third set, with Newblatt the only player in all three sets for the Red Foxes. Keeping even with St. Peters, Bhagat led the way on kills for the Red Foxes as the squad put up kills on longer volleys and showcased their stamina against the Peacocks in the set.
“It showed me a lot of confidence for years to come,” said Owens. “This program has a lot to build off on and we’re just gonna keep continuing to grow every year.”
The squad committed more attack errors than the team is used to, but overshadowed it with good defense on digs from Newblatt and Jillian Hanna, who led the team on the day. St. Peter’s kept competitive up until the end of the set. A powerful block from Julianna Lavner was followed up by a commotion-filled call for a St. Peter’s touch that was too many touches on the Peacocks side which was overturned. This had the whole crowd engaged when Marist had their last few points to win, with a couple of kills from sophomore Claire Lewis.
With only three games remaining, all eyes are on the Red Foxes to finish out the regular season strong and change the narrative about their playoff performances, after getting sent home early last fall. With eyes set on the prize in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, the chance to hoist the MAAC Championship is within reality for the squad.
“We have a chip on our shoulder from going out in the first round last year,” said Fox. “We’re focusing on what we do on our side and most of the time we lose from errors and inefficiency. We can beat anyone; we can beat Fairfield, so we know what we can do for sure.”
The Red Foxes will go on the road to finish off their regular season as they face off against Siena and hope to get revenge on the Saints. This contest will take place on Saturday, November 5 at 2 p.m.
Edited by Andrew Hard
Photo from Kira Crutcher