Colonials battle, but fall short once again to Wright State


Alyssa Hudak attempts a spike. Photo Credit: Tyler Gallo

By Austin Bechtold, Contributor

MOON TOWNSHIP– Looking to record their first victory of the season after dropping their first seven to begin Horizon League play, the Robert Morris volleyball team put up a strong fight against the Wright State Raiders, but were still swept on Tuesday.

RMU (0-8, 0-8 Horizon) brought a stronger entensity rivaled to Monday’s action, but could not handle the conference-leading Raiders’ (8-1, 8-0) consistent offensive attack throughout the course of the night.

Wright State had seven aces on Monday, but struggled early with their serving, missing two serves granting two of the Colonials’ first three points.

RMU held a 7-5 lead before dropping the next four points, also trailing by four, 15-11, at the first timeout of the match.

The Raiders relied heavily on Stephenson’s setter dumps to catch the Colonials off guard, also leading to multiple corner shots by Wright State where no RMU player was present.

Wright State dictated the course of the first set, forcing numerous RMU hitting and passing errors, with blocking a critical hole in the Colonials defense leading to a Dale Starr timeout with the Raiders leading 20-12.

“We’ve played them as tough as anybody else in the conference. They got an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in Horizon League history a year ago and they didn’t lose anybody,” Starr said. “The challenge is for us to step our game up in this conference regardless of who we play. They’re all better volleyball teams than what we saw in the NEC, every one of them.” We have to step up our game consistently and realize that we have to play harder more often. Our consistency level, our attention to detail, our attention span has to get better.”

Maria Alfano recorded the next three in a row for Robert Morris, but Wright State continued their strong first set in route to a 25-17 first set. She led RMU in kills along with Alyson Londot, each compiling four of the first 17 points.

After picking up where they left off after Monday night’s four-set win, the Raiders continued to play disciplined volleyball and force the Colonials into mistakes. Wright State outsmarted Robert Morris early in the second set with ball placement a key theme in building.

Emily Devlin and Megan Cannon entered the match for RMU with Wright State leading 10-6. A video review granted the Raiders their 11th point with an almost perfect shot down the line, adding to the team’s lead and later becoming a 15-9 advantage at the second mid-set media timeout of the night.

Wright State worked very quickly on their offensive attack, taking advantage of overpasses and forcing Starr to use a timeout with RMU trailing by eight, 18-10.

“We have to step up our game consistently and realize that we have to play harder more often,” Starr said. “Our consistency level, our attention to detail, our attention span has to get better.”

Teddie Sauer made her presence known but especially mid-match when she crushed Nikolette Zanolli down the line for her eighth kill of the day,

Robert Morris made a run at the end of the set to cut it to three and Wright State’s first timeout of the match, taking control of the energy on the court by making scrappy plays and few errors. The Raiders rebounded to earn the next and consequential point, winning 25-21.

Alfano and Abby Ryan both totaled six kills apiece through two sets, with Sauer and Megan Alders posting eight each as well.

Wright State continued to prove why they hold the top spot in the Horizon League standings, taking the first four points of the third set and six of the first eight, moving the ball around the Colonials block despite an increased blocking presence and facing tough to handle shots in the back row.

“Our block finally got better the last two nights. I thought we blocked pretty well last night and then I looked over and they out-blocked us 16-8,” Starr said. “Tonight I thought in the second and third set our block got a lot better. That’s more of the blocking team we’re used to seeing. Not having Emma [Granger] in there definitely takes a chunk out of what we do offensively and defensively but I felt like our block has gotten better as the season’s gone on, which makes our defense better. I thought our defense was decent, but we still have to get to the point where we’re turning that defense into offense and we’re just not quite there.”

After trailing 6-2, Robert Morris looked like a completely different team offensively and defensively, dominating the Raiders for eight-straight points on the back of Alfano’s back-to-back kills, forcing a timeout from Wright State.

The script was flipped due to the Colonials’ strong play for the next few points, but the Raiders responded well and continually chipped away at the RMU lead. Wright State tied the third set at nineteen as a Starr net violation challenge was unsuccessful.

Both teams continued to side out, but after the Raiders earned back-to-back points to make it 23-22, Starr called time to talk it over, but Wright State prevailed to take the next two points and win the third set 25-22, and the match 3-0.

Alfano finished with a team and match-leading 12 kills and Nyssa Baker totaled a team-high 11 for the opposition.

“Today was [Maria Alfano’s] best match that she’s had,” Starr said. “She seemed to find her rhythm offensively… that’s a good sign for us.”

Robert Morris will return to the road next week to face Cleveland State March 1-2 beginning Monday at 6 p.m. in Cleveland.