Rider University 3, St. Francis (NY) 2
Broncs win season opener for 2nd straight year
BROOKLYN HEIGHTS, N.Y.--Trailing two sets to none, the Rider University volleyball team rallied for a five-set win at St. Francis (NY) on Friday morning in the 2012 season opener for both teams.
Rider won 20-25, 13-25, 25-21, 26-24 and 15-12.
"I want to thank the reserves that came off the bench," said head coach Christopher Feliciano, in his second season at Rider. "They are the real reason why we were able to win. They infused energy into the match when we were down and allowed the starters to refocus in the third set as we mounted the comeback."
"We started off a little shaky in the first two sets," said senior captain Brittany Gajewski (Whitehouse Station/Hunterdon Central Regional) who had 17 digs. "We were able to come back, something that we weren't successful at last season."
For Rider (1-0), sophomore Jaclyn Webber (Anaheim, Calif./Canyon) had 12 kills, eight digs and four blocks with freshman Nicole Moorman (Moon Township, Pa./Moon Area HS) adding 12 kills with a .409 attack percentage.
"Nicole did a nice job in her first match," said Feliciano said. "She brought energy to the match when we needed it, especially when we were down in the third set. And Jaclyn, she had one of her best matches today. She hit intelligently and didn't just bomb away. Her shots had a purpose and we saw some nice growth from her today."
"Kayla was phenomenal," Feliciano said. "She was consistent throughout the entire match."
Rider out-hit the Terriers .237 to .194 in a match that featured 19 ties and 12 lead changes.
Trailing two sets to none, Rider opened the third set by winning four of the first five points, including a kill by Moorman. Tied at 21, Rider used two kills by Moorman and one by Wong to clinch the set with a 4-0 run.
"We lost the first set, despite having more positives than St. Francis (NY)," Feliciano said. "They (SFNY) are a much better team and we were just undisciplined. And in the second set, we just came out flat."
The Terriers led 23-20 in the fourth set before Rider again rallied with two kills by Wong propelling the Broncs to a 26-24 win, forcing a fifth and deciding set.
Trailing 8-6 in the fifth set, the Broncs rallied with a 4-0 run, two kills by junior Megan Knott (West Caldwell/James Caldwell) as Rider went ahead 10-6. Knott finished with eight kills and three blocks, hitting .375 for the match.
"Megan was huge coming off the bench for us in the fourth set," Feliciano said. "And in the final set, she hit an astronomical number (.490). Without Megan, we probably don't win."
St. Francis (NY) cut the Rider lead to 13-12 before Webber and Moorman combined on a block and Sheerin landed a kill to finish the two hour marathon.
"It's only one match but this was a big win," Feliciano said. "We played so many close matches and for confidence, this is huge. It's learning how to win and putting a positive step forward."
The Broncs also defeated St. Francis (NY) 3-2 to open the 2011 season and Rider has won 20 of 21 matches all-time against the Terriers. Rider had 17 matches extended to four or five sets last season.
"This was a good start and a way to build our confidence," Gajewski said. "It gives us that continued hope that we are headed in the right direction. We played together as a team and that was really big. Last year, we didn't have the depth to turn to when we needed a spark and this season, we have that so when a player is struggling, we can get them out for a couple of points and when they go back in, they are ready to go. The bench really gave the starters a chance to settle down and refocus."
Rider hosts Howard University on Saturday at 1pm in the Student Recreation Center on the Lawrenceville campus.
"It is exciting to be home so early in the schedule," Feliciano added. "We are focused on doing common things uncommonly well and expect that effort to continue on Saturday."
"It is great to play a home match," Gajewski said. "We are looking to carry the momentum through, coming off the win today."