BY DANIEL YNFANTE AND SHANELL GARCIA
It is good to be home.
Playing in front of its home crowd for the first time in the season propelled the Manhattan College volleyball team (4-0), who cruised past the Hartford Hawks (1-3) in three sets (25-15, 25-13, 28-26).
Head Coach Mark Jones revealed that playing at home served as added confidence for the team and gave them extra energy.
“We dictated the match for about two and a half sets, and I think they were just really excited about playing today,” he said. “There was a lot of emotion and I was really happy with them.”
Jones had much to be happy about, as his team came out firing on all cylinders. The Jaspers dominated the first two sets, 25-15 and 25-13 respectively, committing only one attack error in both sets combined.
However, fortunes would change in the third set, as the Hawks posed a much stiffer task. The Hawks grabbed their first lead in the match at 4-2, but Manhattan responded back by scoring seven of the next 10 points to take a 9-7 lead.
The teams would go back and forth for several points, but Manhattan still maintained a 15-14 lead. Three attack errors from Hartford’s Rachel Moll and an Anna Kitlar kill ignited a 4-0 Jasper run that gave them a 19-14 lead.
But the Hawks came firing back and scored seven of the next nine points to tie the score at 21. Three more errors from the Hawks gave Manhattan match point and forced the Hawks to take a timeout.
The stop in play seemed to have worked wonders for Hartford who managed to stay alive and tie the game at 24. A Malia McGuinness kill once again gave the Jaspers match point, but like a cat with nine lives, the Hawks would not go away and rallied to take a 26-25 lead and hold set point.
However, in the ensuing possession, the Hawks wasted a golden chance and committed a service error that allowed Manhattan to tie the game at 26. This time, Manhattan would not give Hartford any more opportunities.
After Kitlar and Sydney Volovski teamed up for a block for match point, Volovski hammered down a kill that gave the team a 28-26 third set win, and consequently, a match victory.
The third set proved to be a tough task for Manhattan, which McGuinness believes she knows why.
“One of the main reasons that the game was so close in the third set is because Hartford found our weakness,” she said.
“In the first two sets they were hitting and tipping deep which I think our team really excels at, but in the third set they started tipping short and right behind the block, and I think that messed us up for a little, but I’m happy we figured it out and ended up winning that set also.”
The victory over Hartford was a total team effort in every sense. Eight different Jaspers scored at least a point, with Claire Van Dyk and Volovski leading the way with 12 and 11 points respectively. Teodora Peric registered a double-double with 30 assists and 13 kills, while McGuinness nearly had a double-double of her own with eight kills and eight digs.
“I think we’re just a really strong team over all,” Van Dyk said. “It doesn’t matter who touches the ball because we’re all equally good. It’s just a really great team to play on…”
The win also marks the best start in program history at 4-0; something Head Coach Mark Jones attributes to the experience of his players.
“We’ve got a lot of players that have been here for many years and I think they’re just very comfortable and very confident in their play,” Jones said.
Jones also added that while he’s content with the team’s perfect start to the season, he knows it is still early.
“We’re going to continue to do what we’re doing, continue to work hard and make some strides to improve,” he said. “It’s very early in the season, but I think we have to be very happy about being 4-0.”