By: Vincent Christiano III
The Canisius Golden Griffins volleyball team had put together a small winning streak before being defeated by Niagara last week. The loss to the Purple Eagles began a small losing streak for Canisius, as they subsequently dropped their final two contests of the regular season, the first to MAAC no. 2 seed Rider and the second to MAAC No. 10 St. Peter’s.
As a result, Canisius ended the season tied with Niagara for fourth in the standings and will face off against the Purple Eagles in the first round of the MAAC Championship tournament.
Rider had given Canisius trouble in their early year matchup, but the Griffs started strong, racing to a lead in the first set and winning 25–15. The second set proved similar, and quickly Rider found themselves in a 2–0 hole.
Despite the deficit, the Broncs returned to form as the No. 2 team in the conference and evened things in the next two sets, knotting the match up 2–2 and forcing a decisive fifth set. Rider took the lead and would edge out a 15–12 victory to complete the comeback.
After suffering a loss at the hands of a powerful Rider team, the Blue and Gold were then in place to play a struggling St. Peter’s. The Peacocks were 1–16 in league play entering the Sunday contest, with their only win coming against a struggling Manhattan the week prior. The Peacocks had only won 12 sets in league play leading into this game, five of which were in the previous two contests.
St. Peter’s jumped out to a quick 25–19 lead to take the first set, but Canisius answered with a narrow 26–24 victory in the second set. St. Peter’s responded, delivering a 25–18 win and took the advantage, before delivering a dominant 25–11 victory in the fourth and final regular season set of the year.
While Canisius recorded more kills in the match, the Peacocks led in almost every other statistical category, out-hitting the Griffs .225 to .130. Canisius also trailed in both blocks (8–5) and aces (10–4) which is unusual, considering the numbers that have been put up by the team thus far.
With the regular season standings decided, the top 8 MAAC teams — essentially everyone except Manhattan and St. Peter’s — prepare for the championship tournament, which will be hosted this year by Siena in Loudonville, N.Y.
Canisius is looking to make a return trip to the finals, where they lost a heartbreaker to the Broncs in the spring season. Niagara will be led by the MAAC Libero of the Year award winner and All-MAAC second teamer Amanda Darling. Darling is the only player of the year award winner not from Fairfield. Notably, no liberos were named to the All-MAAC first team.
Canisius will hope to get standout performances from their own All-MAAC Second Teamers Ella Loussia and Camila Vazquez. All-MAAC rookie team selection Kara Zaucha will also play an important role as a standout young outside hitter.
The key to this matchup may be limiting errors; when the two teams faced off just weeks ago, the team with lesser errors emerged victorious. Similarly, the loser of each matchup recorded only one service ace in both contests. The team that can find success from the serving line is likely the team that will be moving on to the semi-finals.
The first matchup of the first round will see the host Saints facing off against the clear-cut tournament favorite Fairfield Stags, kicking off the tournament at 11 a.m. The Golden Griffins and Purple Eagles are the first round’s next matchup, where one of the two Western New York teams will inevitably be sent home after their bout at 2 p.m.
Rider and Iona are set to face off at 5 p.m., and Marist and Quinnipiac will finish the first round at 8 p.m. The four winners will play on Saturday in the semi-finals, and the champion will be crowned on Sunday at a 4 p.m. start time.