PREVIEW: Volleyball looks to snap losing streak at Purdue-Fort Wayne

Volleyball+heads+to+Purdue-Fort+Wayne+for+an+early-week+tilt+with+the+Mastodons.+Photo+Credit%3A+Tyler+Gallo

Volleyball heads to Purdue-Fort Wayne for an early-week tilt with the Mastodons. Photo Credit: Tyler Gallo

By Austin Bechtold, Assistant Sports Editor

FORT WAYNE, Ind.– After an early bye-week and facing a winless overall record to start Horizon League play, RMU volleyball heads back on the road for the second time this season against fellow conference newcomer Purdue-Fort Wayne.

Robert Morris (0-4, 0-4 Horizon) will travel to Fort Wayne for only the fourth-ever meeting between the Mastodons (4-2, 4-2) and Colonials, with each team hosting two matches. Purdue-Fort Wayne has won every meeting including a 3-1 victory in Moon Township last time out against RMU on September 15, 2018. Monday’s match will begin at 6 p.m. followed by Tuesday’s match at 4 p.m.

Recapping Robert Morris

The Colonials have struggled early on this season to find their footing in the Horizon League after dominating the NEC in 2019. Dealing with injuries to Emma Granger and Maria Alfano, Robert Morris started the season being swept by Oakland (2-2, 2-2) at the UPMC Events Center, despite taking the first match to five sets.

Alfano returned a week later to welcome in February, but her impact was not enough to propel RMU to a victory, losing 3-1 and 3-0 on Feb. 1-2 in Chicago to UIC (6-0, 6-0).

Alyson Londot has had a terrific season to start, leading the Colonials with 29 kills after being limited to only two sets last season before suffering a knee injury in the season opener. Alyssa Hudak has been solid as well, leading the team in blocks (4.0) and second in kills (24).

The surprise of the season so far in 2021 is the impact of the freshman class. Abby Ryan is fourth in the program with 16 kills after leading the category in match one against Oakland. Annie Monaco and Emma Brown have seen quality playing time as first-year-players as well, contributing early on within a veteran-heavy roster.

Scouting Purdue-Fort Wayne

The Mastodons, winners of four in a row, look to continue their strong start to Horizon competition after transitioning from The Summit League. Currently third place in the conference, Purdue-Fort Wayne finished a middle-of-the-pack 18-15 overall and 11-5 in-conference. They fell to Denver in the Mile High City in the conference semifinals in four sets.

Like Robert Morris, Purdue-Fort Wayne lost to unbeaten current standings leader UIC in back-to-back matches, 3-1 and 3-0, in Chicago to welcome themselves to a new set of oppositions. The Mastodons set the tone and imposed their will on their next two adversaries, sweeping the next four matches and winning 12 straight sets.

Purdue-Fort Wayne took care of Youngstown State (2-4, 2-4) in the program’s first home series on February 1-2, then followed their successful start to the week in Indianapolis against IUPUI (0-6, 0-6) February 8-9.

Monday’s match will fall as the Mastodons ‘pink-out’ game in support of the Vera Bradley Foundation and awareness of breast cancer research.

Players to Watch

Alyson Londot (RMU) – Since returning from last season’s sidelining injury, Londot has thrived on the outside for RMU. The 5’10’ senior from Utica, Ohio has been RMU’s most productive offensive weapon during the spring 2021 season and needs to continue her success for the Colonials to win their first match of the season.

Maria Alfano (RMU) – Since returning from an injury that held her out for the Oakland series, Alfano has been the consistent star out of the middle for Robert Morris the program has seen the past three seasons. The senior middle-blocker returned with a vengeance, recording eight kills, two blocks, and two block assists, staking herself third on the team in kills (17). The 2019 All-NEC First Team member will be depended on throughout the match.

Katie Crowe (PFW) – The back-to-back Horizon League Player of the Week has recorded an astonishing 84 kills already through only six matches. Crowe totaled 33.5 points and 30 kills against winless IUPUI and dominated the match since its opening serve. The All-Summit First Team recipient and 2019 Cougar Classic MVP has totaled 1,037 kills in her four-year career and will be the main reason why the Mastodons maintain a steady offense in 2021.

Madison Gates (PFW) – Gates, a junior setter from Grand Rapids, Michigan, has assisted on 154 kills this season. Gates has been a steady hand for the recently successful Mastodon offense as ball placement is key for Crowe and other hitters to put the ball down. She will continue her stability to smoothly run the offense if PFW is to continue to hand losses to RMU.

Prediction

The two new Horizon League teams have taken different paths to their first conference matchup against each other but will come together for the fourth- and fifth-ever matchup and split the series.

Robert Morris will surprise the Mastodons early with solid performances from Hudak, Londot, and Alfano to squeak out a 3-2 victory in match one. The second match will not end as favorably for the Colonials, with the Mastodons sweeping RMU on the back of another career day for Gates.

The first match will begin at 6 p.m. Monday followed by Tuesday’s rematch at 4 p.m. inside the Hilliard Gates Sports Center.