Three games up, three games down.
The Manhattan College volleyball team opened up its season at the La Salle Invitational with victories over La Salle in straight sets (25-16, 27-25, 25-19), NJIT in straight sets (25-15, 25-21, 25-22), and Coppin State in five sets (18-25, 13-25, 25-21, 25-22, 15-13).
The road trip, capped off with a thrilling come from behind win against Coppin State, marks the first 3-0 start to a season in the team’s history, something head coach Mark Jones is proud of.
“I think we’re really happy where we’re at right now for the start of the first opening weekend,” said Jones.
In the season-opener, the Jaspers took care of business against a La Salle team who was coming off a miserable 1-31 campaign in 2013-2014.
Manhattan led the first set from start to finish (25-16), but had to climb back from an early 10-3 deficit to win the second set (27-25). The closest the third and final set got was 15-14, but Manhattan scored 10 of the last 15 points to seal the game with a 25-19 victory.
Looking to avenge a five-set loss against NJIT in the 2013-2014 season, the Jaspers took on NJIT in the first game of a doubleheader.
Early on in the first set, it seemed as if it would be played tightly, as NJIT got off to an 8-7 lead. However, the Jaspers scored 18 of the last 25 points to squash that thought and win the set 25-15.
Just as they did in the second set against La Salle, the Jaspers found themselves down 10-3 in the second set against NJIT. Once again, the team came from behind and scored 22 of the last 33 points to win the second set 25-21.
Although Manhattan only trailed once in the final set—at 3-2—the set proved to be troublesome. After Manhattan reached match point at 24-18, NJIT went on a 4-0 run that caused a Manhattan timeout. However, Manhattan was able to regroup and a Claire Van Dyk kill finished off the set 25-22.
The Jaspers faced their first real test of adversity in the second game of the doubleheader when they lost the first two sets—18-25 and 13-25 respectively—to Coppin State.
“Physically, we were having a very hard time putting up with their [Coppin State] blocking,” said Jones.
That Coppin State blocking forced Manhattan to commit 12 attack errors in the first two sets.
Having to win to stay alive, the Jaspers never trailed in a 25-21 win in the third set. The Jaspers went down 10-3 in the fourth set, but fought their way back to a 25-22 set win.
The decisive fifth set was back and forth. Tied at 12, Van Dyk gave Manhattan a 13-12 lead with a kill. The set would stand at 14-13 with Manhattan holding match point, when Sydney Volovski provided a kill that gave Manhattan a 15-13 set win, and completed the comeback.
“They [Coppin State] played some great defense,” said Jones about why the team fell into an early hole. “We struggled with our passing the first two sets, and I think that’s what we did after the second set where we were definitely more consistent in our passing, and we were able to get more touches off the block so we could run our offense.”
Malia McGuiness, Sydney Volovski, and Allie Yamashiro led the way for the Jaspers over the three games. McGuiness led the team in kills and points with 32 and 32.5 respectively, was second in digs with 27, and registered the only Jasper double-double of the tournament with an 11 kills, 15 digs performance against Coppin State.
Volovski was right behind McGuiness in kills with 29 and points with 31.5. For her outstanding play, Volovski was named to the All-Tournament Team.
The MVP of the tournament went to Allie Yamashiro, who as the Libero did all the dirty work the team needed to win the three games. Yamashiro registered 54 digs (4.91 per set), 8 assists, and 4 service aces.
Mark Jones admitted that Allie Yamashiro is at the center of the volleyball team’s success this season.
“I think Allie just really epitomizes everything great about our team,” said Jones. “She’s a hard worker, she plays amazing defense, just a very good teammate, and she wants to get better every time she steps on the floor at practice or in the match. We’re very happy about her progress. She’s going to have a great season, and she had a really good tournament for us.”
The 3-0 start hasn’t left Jones completely satisfied and he realizes the team still has much more work to do.
“In practice we really have to get back to being a little bit better,” said Jones. “Between the lines we have to be a little more consistent putting the ball away in the rallies. That’ll be something we need to work on and definitely I think our blocking is something that we need to work on.”
Manhattan returns to the court on Sept. 3 in its home opener against Hartford, and then travels to Brooklyn from September 5-6 for the Terrier Invitational against Hofstra, NJIT, and St. Francis Brooklyn.