It was a busy week for the Manhattan College volleyball team, playing three matches at home, but it was a successful week as the team won all three contests.
The week, which included matches on Oct. 8, Oct. 11 and Oct. 12, was a pivotal one for the Jaspers, who had gone in as losers of four of their last five matches.
The Jaspers did show signs of snapping out of their mid-season funk however, when they ended their four game losing streak on Oct. 5 against Saint Peter’s. But the team left no doubts that it had finally turned the corner after its performance in its three game home stand.
Here are some major takeaways from the three matches.
Keeping the Block Battle Close
It’s been a recurring theme this season that when the Jaspers lose, they also lose the block
battle. In fact, the team has been out-blocked in seven of its eight losses this season by a combined total of 68.5-25. Manhattan ranks ninth out of ten teams in the MAAC in total blocks with only 86.5.
While the Jaspers still haven’t shown consistency in the blocks area, they were at least able to keep the block battle close during the three game home stand, which allowed them to disrupt their opponent’s attacks
In the win against Farleigh Dickinson, the Jaspers won the block battle 11.5-2, and in the win against Canisius they only lost the block battle 6-5.5.
The only game with a wide margin in blocks was against Niagara, where the team was out-blocked 12-5. However, the team was able to make up for its lack of blocks thanks to extraordinary performances from outside hitter Malia McGuinness and setter Jade Gray.
McGuinness and Gray Came to Play
Malia McGuinness has been the Jasper’s best player all season long, leading the team in kills and coming second in digs, but even she hasn’t come close to accomplishing what Jade Gray accomplished over the weekend.
Gray, a key member of Manhattan’s bench, was forced to fill in at setter for Teodora Peric, who sat out the weekend matches due to an undisclosed injury. Gray made a case for keeping the starting job once Peric returns after the performances she put in against Niagara and Canisius.
Against Niagara, Gray fell one kill shy of a triple-double after posting career highs in kills with nine, assists with 43 and coming one dig away of a career high 13 digs.
But in case there was a thought that Saturday’s performance against Niagara was just an aberration, Gray dispelled it with a similarly spectacular performance on Sunday against Canisius.
While this time Gray only had four kills, she made up for that by shattering her career best 43 assists, which she had just set the day before, with a 54 assists performance. Gray also matched the 12 digs she registered against Niagara, once again falling one dig shy of a career high.
McGuinness was not too far behind however, also putting up astonishing numbers. Over the three games, McGuinness averaged exactly 18 kills and 18 digs. Against Canisius, McGuinness had a twenty-twenty game with a season-high in kills with 24 and digs with 23.
Malia McGuinness’ Box Score For the Week
McGuinness continues to make a case for herself as MAAC Player of the Year with performances like the ones she had over the three game stretch. She leads the MAAC in kills per set with 3.42 and is ninth in digs per set with 3.58. If McGuinness can lead Manhattan to one of the top spots in the MAAC standings, it’ll be hard to ignore her as a candidate for the best player in the conference.
No ‘I’ in Team
While McGuinness and Gray undoubtedly had the best performances over the three game stretch, the Jaspers showed that they can count on team depth for the rest of the season.
Gray, who had monster games over the weekend, has come off the bench all season. When Peric returns from injury, head coach Mark Jones will have two top-notch setters at his disposal, something most schools in the MAAC don’t have the luxury of having.
Gray was not the lone member of the Jasper’s bench who was forced to start over the weekend. Clare Bozzo had to fill in at middle blocker for Anna Kitlar, who was also out due to an undisclosed injury, and Bozzo had a pair of solid games.
Against Niagara, Bozzo had six kills and hit .385. She topped this performance against Canisius, where she had nine kills and hit .571.
When Kitlar returns from injury, Jones will know that he has a capable option in Clare Bozzo that can fill in at any time.
Several members of the rest of the team also had significant contributions in the three matches. Sydney Volovski averaged 12.3 kills over the three games. Claire Van Dyk had double-digit digs in all games, while also averaging 8.7 kills during the stretch. Allie Yamashiro did what she does best, leading the team with an average of 19 digs during the three games.