Volleyball splits two matches with Niagara
By: Vincent Christiano
The Golden Griffins Volleyball team finished their home-portion of their season with a home-and-home series against cross-town rival Niagara, first with a Thursday evening contest at the Koessler Athletic Center and concluding the series with another evening match at the Gallagher Center. Each team won at home, resulting in a series split and both teams maintaining their positions (Canisius 4th, Niagara 5th) in the MAAC standings.
On Thursday, Canisius seemed to overpower Niagara for most of the game, ending with a 3-1 victory that extended their win streak to four games. In the first set, the Griffs controlled play until the TV timeout, up 15-8. Canisius relinquished their lead after the break, as Niagara scored six straight points and closed the gap to 15-14. After a Canisius timeout, the blue and gold led the rest of the way in a close set, finally claiming the set win by a 25-21 score.
“I felt like we came in really focused and we knew exactly what game we wanted to play and what players we wanted to focus on. I think it helped to have the ‘KAC’ all packed and it was just a lot of fun,” said Hannah Nelson about the hot start to the match.
The second set began with back-and-forth scoring from both programs, but eventually it was Canisius taking the lead, and dominating the remainder of the set. The second set ended with a 25-14 victory, and Niagara seemed to be on their heels in the match and in danger of being swept.
However, the purple eagles bounced back in the third set claiming their first lead of the day. In another back-and-forth set, this time it was Niagara coming out on top and staying alive in the match.
After dropping the third set, Canisius opened with an impressive 9-0 run in the fourth set and never looked back, capturing the final set 25-16. Niagara was held to only hitting .116 during the contest.
Head coach Shannon Thompson remarked that the team’s energy was key to re-capturing momentum in the final set. “The message was just to play our game, we went away from that in the third set and the biggest thing was to have the energy. We didn’t have the energy in the third set and we had to bring that energy and that power.”
Canisius’s dominant effort was thanks in large part to ten service aces from the team, five of which were courtesy of Nelson, who seemed to have a career day posting 19 kills, 18 digs and two blocks to go alongside the aces. Junior Bree Long recorded 31 digs, leading the team and helping to earn her MAAC Libero of the Week honors.
On Tuesday, it was the Purple Eagles with the advantage, as they captured both the first and second sets by a score of 25-18. While Canisius would narrowly escape the third set with a victory to stay alive, Niagara completed their victory with a 25-21 win in the fourth set, ending the Golden Griffins’ win streak and maintaining their position right behind the blue and gold in the conference standings.
Ashley Kekeisen recorded a match high 40 assists, which put her over 1000 career assists. Kekeisen also led the team on the day with 34 digs.
Canisius struggled on Tuesday, hitting only .135 as a team and committing 28 errors to Niagara’s 14.
Canisius still sits fourth in the MAAC, but is in range of both no. 3 Marist and no. 2 Rider with only two games left in the regular season. The Griffs would need some help from other conference matchups, and will hope to capture two wins this weekend in a swing through New Jersey where they face Rider on Saturday and St. Peter’s on Sunday.