Preview: Volleyball continues riding a wave of momentum into weekend matchups

By Josh Selzer

MOON TOWNSHIP– The Robert Morris volleyball team (20-3, 10-0 NEC) looks to continue their storybook season when they host the second and third-ranked teams in the NEC this weekend. The first matchup puts them up against the Bryant Bulldogs (14-13, 9-2 NEC) this Friday. The second matchup will come against the Sacred Heart Pioneers (13-10, 8-2 NEC) this Saturday. RMU has been on the winning side against both teams this season, shutting out the Bulldogs in their first matchup 3-0, and taking down the Pioneers in their first matchup 3-1. Let’s see if the Colonials can continue to impress as they get ready to close out their season with some important conference matchups.

Previewing RMU

This team has done a lot of things right this season. Currently, they are on a ten-game winning streak, the Colonials are coming off a shutout win over St. Francis University (3-19, 3-7 NEC) 3-0, but they had to earn every set they won. The Colonials took the first set by a score of 25-15, they won the second set by a score of 25-14, and then replicated that score to win the third and final set of the matchup.

RMU led the way throughout the matchup, taking almost every category. RMU continues to show its dominance against every team they play. They have posted 13 shutouts out of their 23 matches this season. If RMU can continue to play like this throughout the rest of the season, they will conclude conference play with a perfect record.

Previewing Bryant

The Bryant Bulldogs are entering Friday’s matchup against the Colonials on a four-match winning streak. They are coming off an impressive outing against St. Francis Brooklyn (11-15, 4-7 NEC), taking the matchup 3-0. It looked like it was going to be a close matchup in the beginning, with the Bulldogs only taking the first set by a score of 25-23, but then they would take the second set 25-20, and then would go on to dominate the third set by a score of 25-13.

Bryant won in dominating fashion, winning in most aspects of the game. The Bulldogs led in hitting percentage, digs, aces and kills. Bryant had some early-season struggles, but they have rebounded quite well, and are now above .500. The Bulldogs have shut out their opponents nine out of their 14 wins, and have won by at least two sets in 11 out of their 14 wins this season. Bryant hopes to continue finding ways to win and keep their streak going, especially with a tough matchup against RMU coming up this Friday.

Previewing Sacred Heart

The Sacred Heart Pioneers have been finding ways to win as of late as well, as they are currently on a seven-match winning streak. They are coming off a strong 3-0 win over LIU (7-16, 6-5 NEC). LIU was able to keep it close in all three sets, but Sacred Heart ultimately was able to pull out the victory. The Pioneers took the first set by a score of 25-19, the second set 25-20 and the third set by a score of 25-18. Sacred Heart took control of the matchup, with 45 kills to LIU’s 36, and the Pioneers also had fewer errors throughout the matchup.

Sacred Heart started out the season with some success, but also had some struggles along the way. However, they have played well recently and have gotten themselves over .500 as well, with eight shutouts in their 13 wins this season. They are going to look to continue their success in the final part of their season, as they will have to prepare for a matchup against the Colonials this Saturday.

Players to Watch

Maria Alfano (RMU)

Alfano is coming off of a few good performances. She has also been a big part of the offense this season, with kills per set average of 2.70 and is fourth on the team in kills with 181. Look for Alfano to build off her last performance and help the Colonials continue their success throughout the rest of their season.

Lauren Kolenik (RMU)

Kolenik has also had a good season so far. She is currently second on the team with a kills per set average of 2.72, and is third on the team with 185 kills, so she has also been a big part of the offense this season. She needs to continue to help the Colonials produce offense as they get ready for some important NEC matchups coming up.

Caroline Kennedy (Bryant)

Kennedy has proven to be an offensive juggernaut for the Bulldogs this season. In 27 games so far, she has managed to produce 228 kills and comfortably leads the team with a kills per set average of 2.53. She could be a key factor for the Bulldogs the rest of the season as they get ready to make a late push in the NEC.

Emma McGovern (Bryant)

McGovern has also found ways to contribute to the Bulldogs’ offense this season. She is coming off a strong performance against St. Francis Brooklyn, leading with 10 kills. In addition, she is second on the team in kills with 176 and second in points. She is going to have to continue to step up for the Bulldogs the rest of the way if they are going to finish the season on a strong note.

Liisel Nelis (Sacred Heart)

The Pioneers have seen much success from Nelis this season. She is also coming off a strong game against LIU with nine kills, and she leads the team with 244 kills and points per set with 3.5. Look for her to make a difference late in the season for the Pioneers, as they look to finish strong in the NEC.

Gianna Scioletti (Sacred Heart)

Scioletti has helped out defensively for the Pioneers this season. She leads the team with a blocks per set average of 0.83 and block attempts with 67. If she continues to play strong defensively, she could be a key factor in helping Sacred heart make a late-season push in the NEC.

Prediction

All three teams have the talent and ability to make a push in the NEC late in the season. RMU has two tough opponents coming up this weekend in Bryant and Sacred Heart, and they could use two wins to further assert their dominance in the NEC. I believe that Bryant and Sacred Heart will both give RMU a run for their money, however, I believe RMU will pull out two huge NEC wins to continue their storybook season.

Final: 3-1 RMU over Bryant

3-2 RMU over Sacred Heart