In Buffalo for the first of four straight road games, Marist women’s volleyball dominated Canisius after dropping the first set this afternoon.
It was another all-around impressive performance for senior outside hitter Sasha van der Merwe, who ended the day with a double double, 26 kills and 21 digs. van der Merwe was consistent on her swings, finishing the match with a .352 hitting percentage. Senior and redshirt junior outside hitters Jordan Newblatt and Gabriella Heimbauer each contributed double-digit kills as well, helping Marist reach 60 kills in the four-set match.
The Canisius side of the court had two familiar faces, head coach Tom Hanna and junior libero Jillian Hanna. Hanna, in his second year leading the Golden Griffins, was the head coach for Marist from 2006 to 2015. He oversaw a successful run, as he won MAAC conference coach of the year honors in 2013 and 2014, each year resulting in a regular season championship for the Red Foxes. He ledcMarist to three MAAC championship appearances, but the Red Foxes could not seal the deal, losing all three.
This season, he was joined by his daughter Jillian, who came over as a transfer from Marist, where she spent the previous two seasons as a reliable defensive specialist. Hanna has played a crucial role thus far for the Griffs as their starting libero, leading the team in digs, only second in the MAAC to Iona’s Hope Matschner. She played well today against her former teammates, tallying 21 digs and four aces.
After a competitive start saw each side split the first 30 points, Canisius pulled away. Holding a 22-17 lead, the Golden Griffins had their sights set on an easy first-set victory. Marist would not go away, eventually tying it at 23. They even stayed alive through three separate set points, but the fourth proved too much. Marist never held an advantage following the TV timeout midway through the set, losing 27-25.
The Red Foxes looked to be in trouble to start the second set, trailing 13-8. There, head coach Sean Byron called a timeout and Marist took off from there. Out of the break, the Red Foxes rattled off eight straight points, taking control of the set. A sneaky tip kill from van der Merwe tied it at 13, then she followed it with a great swing on a perfect out-of-system set from senior libero Kendall O’Brien. From there on, Marist cruised to a 25-18 win, outsourcing the Golden Griffins 17-5 after their slow start.
On the set’s final point, junior middle hitter Alyssa White swung for a kill, but all eyes were on junior setter Claire Lewis, who went down on the court, in pain. Lewis rolled her ankle upon landing from her jump set and had to be helped off the court. The Red Foxes were without Lewis in their previous game against St. Peters, a game in which the offense struggled at times in her absence.
To start the following set, it was freshman setter Kaitlyn Owens in at setter, in place of Lewis. The offense did not skip a beat, swinging for 15 kills and taking the set 25-19. Owens looked comfortable leading the offense for all six rotations, something she was tasked with doing in the fifth set against St. Peters on Wednesday. She was back out again for the fourth set, where Marist tried to avoid yet another five-set match.
Owens and the Red Foxes remained strong in the fourth set, clinching their 7th straight win in MAAC play. Marist hit .300 in the fourth and final set, en route to a 25-18 victory. Filling in for Lewis, Owens looked sharp in her two sets of action, recording 24 assists.
It will be a quick turnaround for Marist, who stay upstate to face Niagara at 1 p.m. tomorrow afternoon. Niagara sits in fourth place in the MAAC and will look to make a statement against the first-place Red Foxes.
It remains to be seen whether or not Lewis will be available for tomorrow’s match. If Marist plays the way they did in the final three sets today, they can stretch this surging winning streak to eight, with either Lewis or Owens at setter.
Edited by Luke Sassa
Graphic by Jaylen Rizzo