Volleyball conference season starts on the road: MAAC season begins against Marist and Siena after rough preseason

By Adam Duke

Sports Reporter

After going 0-3 in a second consecutive tournament, the Griffs will seek to pick up a pair of victories on the road this weekend against Marist and Siena. Last season, the Griffs were defeated in two matches by both teams, but as Outside Hitter Jacklyn Malusa optimistically stated last week, “It’s definitely an entirely new team this year.”

This past weekend, the Golden Griffins traveled to Akron, Ohio for some preseason action against Youngstown State, Eastern Kentucky and host, Akron. Although they lost all three matches, senior Katlyn Tyler attested, “I personally think we’ve learned from all of our preseason games. Whether we won or we lost, we learned something from all of them. It’s preparing us for going into conference play starting this week.”  

In the tournament, Tyler led the team with 32 kills. Setter Cassidy Ceriani had 83 assists, and fellow freshman Carly Shifflet had 31 digs at Libero. Regardless, the team did not fare as well defensively in Akron, compared to the Seton Hall tournament.  They put up only eight blocks, compared to 17 blocks from their opponents.

Coach Lenika Vazquez again brought up the fact that the team needs to work on their finish, as well as improve their hitting percentage. After observing this past weekend, “It was a huge factor,” she said. The Griffs finished the weekend with an average .165 hitting percentage, in comparison to their opponents’ .324. “We definitely have the same mindset, and that’s to continuously get better every time we step foot on the court,” Vazquez described. She continued, “I want to make sure that’s where the focus stays.”

Vazquez, wanting a better finish, focused on the Griffs’ scoring per game and record per match last season. In terms of scoring, the blue and gold were only outscored by a total of 54 cumulative points in game twos and 57 points in game threes. Regarding match performance, the Griffs won 17 of 30 game ones. However, in game twos and threes, they won only 11 of 30 in each. With Vazquez’s mentality at the helm of the program, the team looks to improve the way they close games, as well as matches.

Tyler agreed with her coach’s sentiments, saying that the team needs to focus on the little things and to pick up their performance near the end of games. Ceriani attested that the team could rebound mentally by having heart, focusing on team goals and striving to accomplish them. Ceriani also noted that she is adjusting well to the team. “At first it was hard to connect with all the hitters because I’m new and they’re all older and more experienced,” she stated. “But, as preseason went on, I definitely got more comfortable with them.”

Going into week one of the regular season, Tyler has set goals to continue playing how she finished the season last year: with confidence and playing her heart out. From a freshman perspective, Ceriani is eager to play her first game in the MAAC. “Everyone says there’s so much hype and it’s really fun,” said the setter. “I’m excited to get out there in front of our peers and play.”

Playing away this weekend, the team will look to set the tone for the season with two wins. “We’re going to go out there; we’re going to put our heart on the floor, definitely work on the things we work on every single day, take care of our opponent,” reiterated Coach Vazquez. She continued, “We’re definitely scouting to make sure we’re preparing to play against Marist and Siena.”

The Griffs will return home to the Koessler Athletic Center next weekend, September 24 and 25, to square off against St. Peter’s and Rider. This weekend, they will attempt to set the pace for the rest of the season across the state, and Vazquez looks forward to the immediate challenge. “That’s the test, always,” concluded Vazquez, as she related the sport to a classroom. “Practice every day and you have your test on the weekend.”

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