Despite defensive success, volleyball struggles to pull off win

By Adam Duke

Sports Reporter

With one homestand and one roadtrip remaining on the schedule, the Golden Griffins’ volleyball team will make one final push to try to get into the MAAC tournament.

“Our focus, at this point, is to play for our seniors,” said Griffs’ Head Coach Lenika Vazquez. “That’s the communication that I have with them because win or lose, there’s a very short amount of time left.”

Last weekend, the Griffs took on the Siena Saints and the Marist Red Foxes for the second time this season, this time at home.

Against the Saints, the Griffs saw success on both sides of the ball. After losing the first set in extra points by a score of 32-30, they rallied back for the second set, dominating the Saints 25-14. In the following sets, however, it was the Griffs that trailed, falling 25-15 and 25-16.

During the match, seniors Jacklyn Malusa and Katlyn Tyler recorded 13 kills apiece as well as 24 and 17 digs, respectively. Cassidy Ceriani put up 42 assists on the day. Overall, the Griffs bested the Saints in both kills, by a total of 50-48, and digs, 82-81.

After the match, Vazquez noted in an interview with gogriffs.com that the serve-receive struggled in the last two sets, which was ultimately the deciding factor in the match.

Against Marist, the Griffs played excellent defense, posting 15.5 blocks to Marist’s five. Sara Wesley led the offense with 11 kills and Leah Simmons had a .474 hitting percentage. Ceriani also added another double-double to her total.

“There was a lot of hustle,” said Vazquez on the weekend. “It carried over into last night too, just pursuing a lot of balls that we were not pursuing before. It kept us in the matches.”

In addition, Donnett Hickson attained 17 digs, bumping her weekend total up to 30.

“We’ve been working on it more in practice. Coach has been hitting harder balls at us and that’s kind of instilled a little more confidence in us,” said Hickson. “Now that we know that we can all play really good defense, I think it’s starting to transfer over to games.”

On Wednesday night, the Griffs competed in another Battle of the Bridge contest against rival Niagara. Tyler had the most kills for the Griffs with 11, adding to 13 digs for the double-double. Ceriani also had a double-double against the Purple Eagles, upping her seasonal total to 12.

“I definitely keep my consistency when playing by focusing in every game and making sure I’m doing the right things,” Ceriani said on her consistency. “I’m in the right spot on the court, just knowing what’s around me and knowing how I can better the team, helps me be in the right mindset during games.”

This weekend, the Griffs return to the Koessler Athletic Center for their final home matches. They face the top two teams in the MAAC, Fairfield Stags (15-0) and the Quinnipiac Bobcats (11-4).

“We have nothing to lose,” said Hickson. “[Against Niagara] we showed a great display of heart. Hopefully, we can carry that and what we’re doing in practice and last weekend over there. It’s not like we haven’t seen them before.”

In early October, the Griffs lost both contests in straight sets when facing the Stags and the Bobcats. They will look to turn this around to keep postseason hopes alive.

“We need to remember our assignments and shut certain players down and force them to give the ball to other players,” said Vazquez.

Ceriani added that the four remaining games can make a difference and that the team can still accomplish the goals they set throughout the season. As the setter, she plans to encourage the team as she knows they have the skills to succeed.

Similarly, Hickson said that if the team keeps up their effort and strives to get better each day, they can finish the 2016 campaign strong. “Even if we don’t win, but we get better, that’s a win for us,” she stated.

In order to qualify for MAACs, the Griffs must win out through the final four games, the Saints must lose out in each of their games, and the Manhattan Jaspers must lose two of their four games, including the one to Canisius.

“Coming in as a freshman, everything is new and being able to make the MAAC tournament and have my first experience as a ‘baby freshman,’ it would be pretty cool,” said Ceriani. “It would show that all of our hard work paid off this whole season.”

Vazquez provided a similar sentiment, commending her team for their heart, energy, and effort.

“After the Niagara loss, I told them, ‘Listen, every day we can still get better,’” said Vazquez. “It doesn’t matter that we have a shorter window in front of us. As long as we continue that path, an upset is within our grasp.’”

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