PREVIEW: Emma Granger returns as volleyball hosts Wright State

Volleyball+returns+home+this+week.+Photo+Credit%3A+Tyler+Gallo

Volleyball returns home this week. Photo Credit: Tyler Gallo

By Austin Bechtold, Assistant Sports Editor

MOON TOWNSHIP– Despite losing their first six games of the season, hope is on the Horizon for Robert Morris heading into the week.

Senior middle blocker and 2019 NEC Player of the Year Emma Granger returns to the lineup for the Colonials (0-6, 0-6 Horizon) to host the Wright State Raiders (6-1, 6-0). The two-game set begins at 6 p.m. inside the UPMC Events Center Monday night, followed by the rematch between the two teams on Tuesday, one hour earlier at 5 p.m. RMU is 0-3 all-time against Wright State and will be looking for their first-ever conference victory.

Recapping Robert Morris

The Colonials began the spring 2021 rescheduled campaign at home against Oakland (3-3, 3-3) without Granger, Maria Alfano, and Nikolette Zanolli, still able to push the Golden Grizzlies to five sets in the first match; later being swept the next day in the rematch with Zanolli back making her season debut as the starting libero.

Robert Morris then lost to conference unbeaten UIC (6-0, 6-0) in both matches with Alfano returning from injury. After an early bye week, RMU lost six-straight sets against Purdue Fort Wayne (6-2, 6-2), also making their Horizon League debut transitioning over from The Summit League.

Granger will officially return to the court for the first time since being injured in warmups on January 25, RMU’s opening match against Oakland. One of the best players in program history, Granger earned a conference record seven NEC Player of the Week honors in 2019, has posted 1,008 career kills alongside 174 service aces, and holds numerous program records both in a single match and full season.

Robert Morris will need to depend on not just Granger but seniors Alyson Londot and Whitney Brown, who have played well in their final season. Alyssa Hudak has had a strong season as well, with Abby Ryan an unexpected freshman sensation on a veteran team. The Colonials need a breakthrough to redefine the program’s identity in this new era of RMU volleyball and will need a team effort to scrap their way to a victory and hand the Raiders their first conference loss.

Scouting Wright State

Wright State is coming off of a very successful but disappointing 2019 season after posting a 24-6 overall record and 13-3 conference mark, hosting the Horizon League Championship against Northern Kentucky, dropping the match 3-1 on Nov. 23. The Raiders followed up their defeat with a 3-0 blowout loss to Purdue in the NCAA Tournament.

This season, Wright State has picked up where they left off in terms of regular-season success, beginning the season undefeated with sweeps of Milwaukee (3-3, 3-3) and Northern Kentucky (3-3, 3-3) before dropping only one of seven sets on the road against Oakland. Youngstown State did not travel to Dayton last week for the programs’ scheduled series, resulting in the Raiders facing off against the University of Dayton instead, with the non-conference matchup resulting in a devastating 3-2 five-set defeat.

Wright State will look to rebound against the Colonials and keep their perfect conference record intact to begin the week, having to keep up with UIC atop the standings.

Players to Watch

Emma Granger (RMU) – The senior superstar will have all eyes on her as she attempts to break even more program records in her final season. Granger was the key to RMU’s offensive attack ever since she stepped onto the court in 2017. She must work her magic once again and be the skilled powerhouse out of the middle both offensively and defensively for the Colonials to officially enter the Horizon League win column.

Abby Ryan (RMU) – Ryan has been a star on the outside early and often for Robert Morris. The 5-11 freshman from Orchard Park, New York leads the team in kills-per-set (2.72) and is second on the team with 49 kills. Ryan will need to continue her strong season to vault RMU to victory.

Teddie Sauer (WSU) – A senior middle blocker/right-side hitter from Fort Wayne, Indiana, Sauer has posted team-highs in kills (64) and points (85) so far in 2021. She will be a key factor matching up against Granger, Alfano, and others to try to neutralize their impact on the overall course of the game.

Lainey Stephenson (WSU) – Stephenson makes the offense flow smoothly for the Raiders and the junior setter leads the team with 218 assists and also registers 1.21 points-per-set. She can put the ball right where her hitters want it to set the tone for Wright State’s explosive offense.

Prediction

Granger returning to the starting lineup along with a bit of home cooking will pivot the past six losses into RMU’s first victory in a 3-2, five-set thriller on Monday.

Tuesday will be a tougher challenge for the Colonials as the second game of the back-to-back has been for struggling teams, with RMU being swept 3-0 despite close scores throughout the night.