Marist Avoids Disaster Against St. Peters, Retains Sole Possession of First Place

St. Peter’s volleyball–with an 1-51 record in their last two seasons combined–gave Marist a scare attempting to coast into first place with ease. 

In a matchup between first and last in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the Peacocks played leaps and bounds above their record, taking Marist to five sets with a 13-10 lead before the Red Foxes rebounded and won five straight points for the win.

“I don’t think we expected to go to five, but we did expect them to put up a fight,” said senior outside hitter Jordan Newblatt.

Newblatt tallied 19 kills on 38 attacks, converting at an impressive .368 rate. She also added in 13 digs, an ace, and two and a half total blocks, highlighted by two solo blocks.

The Red Foxes were without a familiar face, as junior setter Claire Lewis was out for the night. Lewis was sidelined for tonight’s matchup with strep throat, but head coach Sean Byron doesn’t expect her to miss any more action, attending practice tomorrow according to the coach. 

In her place, Marist ran a 6-2 rotation with freshman setters Jordan Curran and Kaitlyn Owens, with both setters setting from the back row, leaving a right side hitter as an option to hit in the front row at all times. 

This would force Marist to further shift their lineups on the night. Senior outside hitter Sasha van der Merwe swung from the outside and played middle back rather than her usual home on the right side of the court. Starting the game at right side hitter on the night was sophomore Morgan Munro and senior Anne Mahler.

The changes seemingly did not have much of an effect on Marist, as they opened the match smoking hot, storming to an early 12-1 lead. 

Before Marist could run away with it, St. Peters fought back.

They cut the deficit to one point on a few occasions late in the set. They even reached set point first, but a kill from Mahler kept Marist alive. 

The comeback was powered by strong serving, courtesy of freshman defensive specialist Samantha Trujillo and sophomore outside hitter Mackenzie Tucker, both going on lengthy runs at the line to get the Peacocks back into the game.

Tied at 24, the sides would trade the next three points before a Newblatt kill down the line ensured Marist a first set victory, 27-25. The kill was Newblatt’s fourth of the set on just five swings, tying her with Zolg, who did it in six.

St. Peters held a 7-5 advantage in the second set, before Marist took over and recorded the following eight points and won the set 25-16. The Red Foxes received most of their points from unforced errors by the Peacocks. St. Peters totaled 12 errors, and the Red Foxes took advantage of the play and aced four times.

With their backs against the wall, St. Peters looked dominant to start the third set. Holding a 10-3 lead, St. Peters was in the driver’s seat, but Marist made it interesting, eventually tying the score at 23. They failed to take the lead, as the Peacocks took the next two points, and the set.

For St. Peters, who entered at 0-8 in conference play, it was their second set win against a MAAC opponent on the season.

It was a sloppy start for Marist to begin the third set, and the Peacocks took advantage. Backed by unforced errors and inaccurate passing, St. Peters made the most of these mistakes, leading by nine points midway through the fourth.

Facing another large deficit, this time the Red Foxes fell apart, failing to get back into the game. St. Peters looked dominant in a 25-13 blowout. Offensively, Marist was unable to get anything going. They swung for a shocking -.226 percentage, highlighted by 13 attack errors, more than double their amount of kills in the set (six).

The 0-19 Peacocks were now just 15 points away from their first victory on the season, against the first place Red Foxes.

Prior to the winner-take-all fifth set, Byron made some changes. For one, he scrapped the 6-2 rotation, opting to stick with Owens at setter full time. This moved van der Merwe back to the right side of the court, where she has been dominant on the season. Next was plugging in senior defensive specialist Kendall O’Brien at libero, who saw some action in the previous two sets.

Lastly, redshirt junior outside hitter Gabriella Heimbauer was back at the outside hitter position. It was originally a scheduled off day for Heimbauer, but she hit right side in the fourth set, then her typical spot on the outside in the fifth. 

Nursing a knee injury that kept her sidelined for the entirety of last season she played sparingly in the fourth set, only recording one kill. She was warmed up and ready to take over the fifth set.

The lineup shuffling was far from the plan for Byron, but changes had to be made after dropping the third and fourth.

“We started putting together different lineups midway through game three for game four, and then midway through game four for game five,” said Byron.

The on-the-fly changes were the difference maker in the fifth set, but not at first. St. Peters continued to ride the momentum they built in the previous two sets, clinging to a 13-10 lead, just two points away from the ultimate upset victory. Marist scored the ensuing five points, to steal the fifth set victory, and the win that came along with it. 

The scoring streak was started by a kill from Heimbauer, one of four kills from the redshirt junior in the fifth set.

“I think Gabriella’s kill brought us back,” said Newblatt.

Tonight’s victory wraps up a three game home stand that saw the Red Foxes go undefeated. At 8-1 in MAAC play, Marist holds sole possession of first place in the conference. Up next is two road trips, starting in upstate New York this weekend where Marist faces off against Canisius on Saturday and Niagara on Sunday. 

The weekend following, they travel to Iona and Manhattan for two more in conference battles. The Red Foxes will look to maintain their undefeated record on the road against MAAC opponents before they return home to face Niagara on Oct. 28.

Edited By Dan Aulbach

Photo Credit: Jaylen Rizzo

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