In their first meeting since Rider eliminated Marist from the 2022 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament, the Red Foxes turned the tables, sweeping the Broncs 3-0.
Marist entered last year’s MAAC tournament as the No. 2 seed, with their eyes set on a championship run. In the first round, No. 7 seed Rider ended those hopes quickly in a swift 3-0 victory.
“They beat us in three [sets] to end our season, so it was nice to come out strong and start with that,” said senior outside hitter Jordan Newblatt.
Newblatt led the way for the Red Foxes tonight, recording 16 kills on a .483 hitting percentage, a kill on nearly every other swing. She also added nine digs, an ace, and three assists, as well as a huge block near the end of the third and final set.
“It’s nice to finally have her back in and be able to get everybody going on the same page,” said head coach Sean Byron. Newblatt missed nearly the entirety of non-conference play with a concussion.
Senior outside hitter Sasha van der Merwe had 13 kills on top of 11 digs on defense, and redshirt junior outside hitter Gabriella Heimbauer contributed eight of her own. The middle hitters also got in on the action; senior Vanessa Zolg was in on the action with three, while junior Alyssa White had a clutch swing to extend Marist’s lead late in the first set.
This well-balanced offense can be credited to junior setter Claire Lewis, who did a great job getting all Marist hitters involved early and often. At the end of the night, she tallied an impressive 36 assists in the three set affair. While the big swings and crafty tips get the most attention, Lewis did a great job giving her hitters opportunities for all types of attacks.
“Claire Lewis was fantastic,” said Byron.
The first set provided a defensive battle, as neither offense really found their footing. Each side served tough with two aces a piece, in addition to many serves that left the opponent out of rhythm. These serves came at a cost though, with the Broncs and Red Foxes combining to miss nine serves.
The strong serves translated to struggles at the net, as Marist hit for a .240 percentage in the first set, a mark slightly below average. They were able to hold Rider to a paltry .121, enough to give them a comforting edge.
The Red Foxes would ultimately pull away near the end of the set. Leading 18-16, they went on a stretch run where they outscored Rider 5-2, putting them near the brink of set point. The Broncs would respond, scoring four straight, cutting the lead to just one at 23-22. Van der Merwe then delivered the first of two crucial kills, with the second coming two points later, clinching the set for Marist.
“We weren’t super crisp in the first set, but we got better as the match went on,” said Byron about his team’s play tonight.
Following the narrow victory in the first set, Marist settled in, winning the next two by scores of 25-21 and 25-18. The first half of the second set was neck-and-neck, but Rider held a 12-11 edge after freshmen middle hitter Molly Rohde and outside hitter Paige Giehtbrock combined for a big block that ricocheted deep into the back corner of Marist’s side of the court.
The Red Foxes would answer with four straight points, highlighted by both middle hitters. Zolg provided an ace and an assist on a van der Merwe kill while White provided a huge block, sending a Rohde swing back onto her side of the net, and off her head.
Marist would stay hot, extending the lead to 18-14 before Rider scored two points of their own, causing Byron to call a timeout. Out of the timeout, White recorded her previously mentioned only kill of the night, a rocket swing to take back the momentum for the Red Foxes.
After closing out the second set, Marist would ride that momentum into the third set, where they looked to put the finishing touches on a 3-0 sweep. The Red Foxes jumped out to a 9-3 lead, including a highlight reel play from van der Merwe and Newblatt. After Lewis made a late save on an overpass, van der Merwe bump set Newblatt–backwards and the full length of the court–where Newblatt delivered a kill.
Rider would not go down without a fight, as they began to claw their way back into the game. Relentless hustle and effort kept countless plays alive, leading to hard earned points for the Broncs. The closest they came to catching Marist came when the Red Foxes held an 18-17 lead, but Marist would score seven of the final eight points. Within the run, freshman libero CC Potter-Pesoa aced Rider twice, doubling her season total before tonight’s match. The final ace came on the game’s final point, the knockout blow for Rider.
Tonight’s win was crucial for the Red Foxes, as it marks the first three games in a five day stretch. Luckily for Marist, all three will be at home, with the next one coming this Saturday against Quinnipiac at 1 p.m.
Edited By Dan Aulbach
Photo Credit: Kira Crutcher