The Manhattan College Jaspers volleyball team concluded their four game homestand by splitting their weekend series against the St.Peter’s Peacocks and Rider Broncs. The Jaspers defeated the Peacocks on Saturday afternoon, but lost to Rider on Sunday, leaving them with a 14-8 record, and an 8-2 record in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference games.
In Saturday’s win against the Peacocks – 25-14, 25-17, 25-21 – the Jaspers dominated the game from start to finish so much that the most they ever trailed by in any set was only two points. The team also matched a season-high with 11 service aces.
“It’s something we’ve really been focusing on,” Head Coach Mark Jones said. “That’s always been something that we always work on every day at practice, and it’s always a focus.”
The Jaspers received significant contributions from various people having five different players record at least four kills. Malia McGuinness led the way with a near double-double as she had nine kills and 10 digs, while also scoring on three service aces. Sydney Volovski had seven kills of her own, and Sarah Haselhorst contributed in various categories by recording five kills, five digs, one service ace, and a block. Teodora Peric led the team in assists with 24, while also recording seven digs and three service aces. Juliana Behrens and Erin Weis each had four kills and together they combined for five of the team’s seven blocks. The Jaspers only had 10 attack errors as a team while St. Peter’s had 27.
After a stretch of five straight five-set matches, a three-set match was a little surprising to McGuinness.
“It was weird. I hated every second of it,” McGuinness joked. In a more serious note, she stated that last Wednesday’s home loss against NJIT provided some motivation for the team against St. Peter’s. “We’re supposed to win at home, and it was tough losing in five at home,” she said. “So we came out and just wanted to win.”
The absence of two of the team’s most productive players, Ellie Wiekamp and Anna Kitlar, could have negatively affected the Jaspers, but the team as a whole was able to make up for their absence. Head Coach Mark Jones credited the teamwork the Jaspers displayed for the victory.
“We’re a team first,” Jones said. “The people that went in today like Erin [Wies,] Jade [Gray,] and Sarah [Haselhorst] did a great job for us.”
McGuinness also shared the same opinion as her coach.
“Everyone comes to practice every day and they work hard. Everyone was ready to play.”
She also highlighted the performance of senior Haselhorst who had to fill in for Wiekamp at outside hitter, a position she had not played since her freshman year.
“Sarah did an awesome job,” McGuinness said. “She hasn’t played outside since freshman year but she really came in and helped us out a lot.”
Sunday’s game against Rider was a completely different story from Saturday. Despite Rider coming in with a 2-6 record in MAAC play, losers of seven of their last nine games, and carrying a five game losing streak, the Broncs gave the Jaspers one of their toughest battles they have had all season.
The match was a tale of two halves as the Broncs came out firing on all cylinders winning the first two sets 27-25 and 25-17 only to see the Jaspers win the third and fourth sets 25-20 and 25-15, forcing a fifth set for the ninth time in the season.
The Jaspers impressive 6-2 record in five set matches clearly gave them an advantage over the Broncs who had lost its only five set match of the season against the Fairfield Stags. However, experience didn’t play a part in this case, and it was the Broncs who defeated the Jaspers 15-6 in the final set.
After matching a season-high with 11 aces against the Peacocks, the Jaspers only had three against Rider.
“We needed to serve a lot more aggressive,” Jones said. Jones also cited the lack of consistency in the passing area as a reason why the team failed to win. “We didn’t pass well in the fifth game, and the end result is that we lost.”
The Jaspers were led by Wiekamp who recorded a double-double with 14 kills and 13 digs. Peric also had a double-double of her own with 50 assists and 14 digs. The Jaspers also received contributions from McGuinness with 14 kills and 9 digs, Volovski with 12 kills, Kitlar with 12 kills, six digs, and two blocks assists, and Juliana Behrens who had nine kills and four blocks assists.
The excruciating defeat to a struggling Broncs team could have been seen as a negative by the Jaspers, but they suggest taking the positives – like coming back from a two set deficit to force a fifth set – from the game.
“We’re definitely going to look at the positives,” said Wiekamp. “The positives are going to keep us going. We’re a great team and we are very good at battling back…” She also believes that although the team lost two of its four games during their homestand, the team can learn from that. “We have a lot of lessons to still learn,” she said. “We’re a team that’s building… there’s plenty of things to work on which shows that we’re a team that still has potential and can get better and better.”
Jones also pointed out that the team still needs to practice in certain areas, and they will do that for the upcoming games.
“We need to have a different consistency with our passing and a different mindset at practice,” he said. “I think the most important thing is that everybody on the team has to come and work on what they need to work on, so as a whole team we can get better for this next weekend.”
Despite Sunday’s loss against the Broncs, the Jaspers were able to stay within half a game of the Siena Saints for first place in the MAAC. The teams square off next Saturday, but before that, the Jaspers will travel to New Jersey to face Farleigh Dickinson in a non-conference matchup.