By Vincent Christiano III
This weekend, the Canisius College Volleyball team will begin league play when they host Siena for a Saturday afternoon contest at the Koessler Athletic Center. Siena, the host of this year’s MAAC Championship tournament, finished ninth in last year’s conference standings with an overall record of 1–7.
The Griffs enter this season as one of the hopeful contenders for the title, with one player featured on the preseason All-MAAC roster and the team receiving enough votes to finish third in this year’s MAAC volleyball preseason coaches poll. Canisius did receive one first-place vote. The only other teams to receive first-place votes were Fairfield and Rider.
The Griffs enter conference play after playing nine matches between three separate invitational tournaments. Of the 20 sets played across the nine contests, Canisius only won two, but head coach Shannon Thompson was adamant that the tough schedule will help prepare the team for a run at a conference championship.
“I think we learned a lot about ourselves. I purposefully set us up a tough schedule because I wanted us to go into conference facing teams that would be harder or the same as teams in conference,” said Thompson. “You learn a lot about yourself when you lose, I always say, ‘You win and learn.’”
Siena also found themselves struggling in exhibition matches, as the team is 0–10 after non-conference action, as well. One of the two teams will record their first win of the new season after Saturday’s match at noon.
One of the keys to the Griffs’ success this season is the team’s continuity. Thompson is now in her second year as the program’s head coach, so there has been time to adjust and learn the system. Additionally, several key players are returning to this year’s lineup, including Ella Loussia, who was named to the preseason All-MAAC team. Loussia led the team in kills during the 2020–21 season and was named first team All-MAAC after the conclusion of the season, alongside fellow outside hitter Hannah Nelson. Nelson, another key player returning to the team this season, plays a key leadership role and is crucial on the service side of the offense, having led the team in service aces the previous season.
Despite having only one player named to the preseason All-MAAC team, Thompson emphasized that there were a number of players in the starting lineup that could be recognized with All-MAAC honors.
“I think our middles, Camila [Vazquez] and Elle [Shult], do a great job and unfortunately middles in general get snubbed. I think Bree [Long] as well, our libero, last year did very, very well: she led the conference in digs, and I see her having another great year this year.”
The Golden Griffins officially begin their quest towards All-MAAC honors, and more importantly, an MAAC Championship, this weekend at the Koessler Athletic Center. Both contests — the first at noon on Saturday and the second also at noon on Sunday — will be featured on ESPN3.