After big weekend, volleyball falls short to Niagara

By Adam Duke

Sports Reporter

After a huge weekend, defeating the Manhattan Jaspers and the Iona Gaels at the Koessler Athletic Center, Griffs volleyball had the opportunity to capitalize on their ascent in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference standings.

“They started to see that their hard work was paying off,” said head coach Lenika Vazquez. “The shift that we made in practice as far as them going faster, greater focus on defense and pursuit, they saw their results.”

Unfortunately for the Griffs, a 0-3 loss against the Niagara Purple Eagles at the KAC last Thursday left them stagnant in seventh place. Vazquez said that the team must learn that no matter who they’re playing, whether it’s their own teammates in practice, or another team in a game. She continued, saying they must do what they already know how to do.

“We weren’t doing that on Thursday. We just played a bad game of volleyball,” she stated. Vazquez continued, “Also, I hope our fans learn that we need them. Niagara’s fans came in here and just overshadowed us in our home.”

Malusa commented that the loss to the Purple Eagles was a low and that the Griffs corrected some of their flaws in practice.

On Saturday, October 8, the Griffs took down the Jaspers in a five set match. Winning 3-2, the offense was led by seniors Jacklyn Malusa and Katlyn Tyler, who earned 19 kills apiece. Malusa attributed her performance to the help she received from her teammates.  “The passing was great that game and our setting from Cass, our freshman, she did a phenomenal job.”

As Malusa alluded to, Cassidy Ceriani, put up 61 assists, just three short of tying the school record of 64. “That, definitely, was a team effort,” she said. “Obviously the hitters needed to perform and finish the ball, so it wasn’t all me. It was a team effort and we can make that happen more by being connected as a team and having that same goal of finishing.”

On Sunday the 9th, the Griffs toppled the Gaels in another 3-2 contest. “It definitely showed that we have the capability of winning and doing really well against good teams,” said Ceriani. “Knowing that we can compete with these teams and knowing our capability can take us into a better mindset when we play these teams for the second time around.”

In the match, Malusa had 14 kills with a .400 hitting percentage. Ceriani once again led in assists, with 36, as well as leading the team in digs, with 19. After the match, Coach Vazquez commended the pair for their performances in the match in an interview with gogriffs.com.

After a 3-0 victory over St. Peter’s on Wednesday, the 4-7 Jaspers were able to pass Canisius in the standings, pushing the 3-6 Griffs back to eighth place. “We have put ourselves in a position where we need to win against the teams we won against before, so we definitely have to make that happen, and we’re going to need to split with some of the other teams,” said Vazquez. “We might have to knock off one or two that are unexpected that have done well in the conference.”

She noted that Rider and Siena, in fourth place and tied for fifth place, respectively, each defeated the Griffs in three sets. She said that even if the Griffs beat those teams in five sets, they’d still have to take a match from another team to improve their spot in the standings.

Now that the team is halfway through the season, they are preparing to face their conference opponents for the second time. Ceriani noted that the team will learn from their mistakes and use their experience from the first time around to improve. “If we come out with the heart and mindset that we’re going to perform well, we have the capability of performing well, so we will do well,” she said

Malusa added that the Griffs have a feel for the other teams now and need to exploit the weaknesses these teams possess.

Going into Rider and St. Peter’s this weekend, the blue and gold will use these strategies to attempt to repeat their routing of the St. Peter’s Peacocks and to improve their performance against the Rider Broncs. Vazquez asserted that the Griffs will need to be disciplined and focused to play good volleyball.

Regarding the Broncs, Vazquez mentioned Canisius’ scouting of the team, as the Broncs have a new outside hitter. “We’re going to make a couple minor adjustments as far as our defense, so we can make sure we defend well against her in particular,” she said. She also noted that Broncs outside hitter Ryan Ackerman and libero Emma Aldaya were key players they scouted and have prepared for. “They still have their strong outside,” stated Coach, “And their libero digs a lot of balls.”

Currently standing in eighth place, the Griffs will need to capitalize on key moments and as it has been all season, improve their finish in close sets and matches to help the team succeed and finish in the top six going into the MAAC tournament.

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