Marist women’s volleyball handed Quinnipiac their first home loss in MAAC Conference play on the season in a convincing 3-1 victory for the Red Foxes.
Before today’s match, the Bobcats had only dropped one set at home, coming in last weekend’s 3-1 victory over Fairfield. The Red Foxes were undeterred, marching into Burt Kahn Court and taking care of business.
Senior outside hitter Sasha van der Merwe played masterfully in this afternoon’s match, depositing 25 kills, her most in MAAC play on the year. Next on the list for Marist came fellow senior outside hitter Jordan Newblatt, who recorded 16 kills on an efficient .394 hitting percentage.
In addition to assisting on 48 Marist kills, junior setter Claire Lewis finished with 12 digs, playing effectively on both sides of the ball.
In the upset victory, the Red Foxes locked down on the Bobcats on defense. Quinnipiac, who entered tied for first place at 12-2 in MAAC play, led the conference with kills per set, at 12.01. Today, Marist held them under this average in two of four sets, also limiting them to a .162 hitting percentage.
The Marist block got countless touches on Quinnipiac’s biggest swings, either blocking them or softening the attack for the back row to dig. This forced the Bobcats to try and get craftier, relying on tips and off-speed swings. This is not ideal for an offense, as on the other side of the net, the Red Foxes swung away at free will.
Marist stretched an early lead in the first set, remaining in control after taking a 6-2 advantage. van der Merwe led the way for Marist, swinging for six kills, two of which being points 23 and 25 for the Red Foxes.
In her return to the court, redshirt junior Gabriella Heimbauer made her presence felt. Heimbauer missed both of last weekend’s games due to her ongoing knee injury but looked very good in today’s action. She served well at the line, switching from her usual top spin serve to a hard float serve. It gave the Bobcats fits, as she recorded two aces in the first set alone.
Heimbauer also made an impact at the net. She added in a kill, and stayed very active at the net on defense, blocking two Quinnipiac attacks. The second of which came on a big solo block, giving Marist a commanding 22-14 lead. From there, the Red Foxes held off a late Bobcat push, taking the first set by the score of 25-20.
Quinnipiac drew first blood in the second set, taking the first point and a 1-0 lead that came along with it. Marist tied, then took the lead on the next two points, and did not look back. The Bobcats remained close, not letting Marist run away with the lead like they did in the previous set. Eventually, the Bobcats took back their first lead at the 20-19 mark, and never gave it up.
The Red Foxes couldn’t battle back, as Quinnipiac closed out the set 25-22, setting up a crucial third set.
The third set provided yet another thrilling battle. Marist held a quick 3-0 lead, but the Bobcats stormed back with five straight points. The sides then traded points for most of the set. Neither team took a convincing lead, until late in the set. Marist reached 20 first, then took their biggest lead of the set, 23-19.
Just two points away from a must-needed set win, the Bobcats rallied back, winning three straight points. Just one point from squandering their late set lead, Heimbauer came up clutch with a kill. Then, she rotated to the back row for her turn to serve and ended the set with an ace.
Heimbauer may have played the hero late, but once again van der Merwe led the Marist attack. The senior captain nailed eight kills in the set, three of which came in a four-point Marist run that saw them take back the lead near the midway point of the set.
The fourth and final set played out eerily similar to the first set of action today. The Red Foxes rode an early lead to a set victory, despite a late Quinnipiac push. Marist had a healthy 22-16 advantage, but the Bobcats gave them a little bit of a scare, winning three straight points. Head coach Sean Byron called a timeout, and Newblatt landed a kill on the ensuing point. Junior middle hitter Alyssa White then put the set on ice, blocking two straight Quinnipiac attacks, clinching Marist a statement victory.
The Red Foxes needed the win to keep their place as the third seed in the conference safe, but also for the team’s confidence. Marist has their sights set on winning the conference title, but to get there they need to be able to beat the teams above them in the MAAC.
Earlier in the season, Marist suffered a crushing loss to the Bobcats in five sets. Today, they proved they are capable of taking down Quinnipiac. Now, Fairfield sits alone in first following their win today over Siena, and Quinnipiac’s loss to Marist. The Red Foxes were able to defeat Fairfield in their first matchup of the season, also coming in five sets.
Round two is tomorrow, as Marist stays in Connecticut to face the Fairfield Stags at the Leo D. Mahoney Arena at 1 p.m. This match will give Marist another chance to further prove themselves as a legitimate title favorite, regardless of their seeding in the MAAC tournament coming up in less than two weeks.
Edited by Luke Sassa
Graphic by Jaylen Rizzo; Photo via Marist Athletics