Quinnipiac volleyball drops to 1-6 in MAAC play after gritty loss to Iona

Michael LaRocca, Opinion Editor

HAMDEN, Conn — In a gut-wrenching affair, Quinnipiac volleyball fell to the visiting Iona Gaels on Saturday in four sets. 

After a five-set battle against Marist on Wednesday, the Bobcats came out with a different spark in their play. It was necessary when the team is sitting with a 1-5 record in MAAC play and going up against an Iona squad that is 6-1. 

Quinnipiac played like its preseason ranking to start, as the team jumped out to a 7-3 lead after the match’s first 10 serves. After that, they switched back to the team they’ve been all season, a group of girls who are willing to fight tooth and nail for a victory. 

Following the initial Bobcat lead, the Gaels went on an 8-2 run that gave them an 11-9 advantage about halfway through the set. At that point, it was a battle the rest of the way. Each side traded runs until the Gaels eventually found victory in the set, taking it 25-21. 

While Quinnipiac found itself down one set to nothing early on, the first frame set the tone of the entire match for the Bobcats from a player’s and coach’s perspective. 

The team’s offensive production was much cleaner than it had been in the previous two matches against Fairfield and Marist. The Bobcats were hitting .234 to start things off, and errors were kept to a minimum, with only four being committed in the first set, the same amount as Iona. 

Head coach Kyle Robinson also found ways to work around a shoulder injury that has been nagging freshman hitter Yagmur Gunes. He allowed her to work as a defensive specialist when she needed to play, then swapped her for fellow freshman hitter Giorgia Donghi when the team needed to catch fire offensively. 

The one set where the team did catch fire was the second, doing so in spite of an obnoxious Gael bench. Whenever a Quinnipiac player was getting ready to serve, Iona players would be making chants in an effort to cause an error. 

When graduate student middle blocker Nicole Legg was serving to start the second set, she was met with chants sounding similar to “Legless.” She responded with an ace. 

“It gives us more fuel to our fire too,” sophomore hitter Alexandra Tennon said when referencing the Iona chanting. “Y’all can say that, but we know how to play and do our things. So it doesn’t bring us down at all. If anything, it just lifts us up more.” 

The team found a rhythm  in the second set. They clawed to a 7-3 lead once again after 10 serves, but this time, chose not to relent. Robinson’s “catch fire” lineup lit up into a blaze, going on runs of 3-0, 5-0 and 3-0, winning the set 25-17. 

The key moment of the match came during set point of the second frame, when freshman setter Damla Gunes deked out the Iona defense, knocking the ball over by using a setting motion instead of a hitter’s swing, giving her the set-clinching kill. 

The final two sets were also battles, but neither went the way of the Bobcats, as the Gaels took set three by a score of 25-20, and took set four by a score of 25-22. 

The fourth set was intriguing, as after three sets of strictly using the starting lineup and Donghi, Robinson worked to give playing time to the rest of his bench. However, by the match’s end, the only player who remained unused was junior setter Chloe Ka’ahanui, leaving the veteran without a chance to make an impact on the game. 

“Our setting has been great,” Robinson said. “Even though some of our attackers haven’t been scoring points, our setting has been great. Damla has been fantastic as a first year, so I had no need to put Chloe in.” 

Offensively, the Bobcats regressed from the progress they made against Marist. Against the Red Foxes, the Bobcats had four players reach double-digit kills. Against the Gaels however, only senior hitter Aryanah Diaz and Tennon reached the double-digit mark. This was despite the fact that Legg was hitting .556 in the attempts she was fed during the game. 

It was a tough showing for a Quinnipiac team that is now tied with Manhattan for second-to-last place in the conference with matching 1-6 records. 

However, that tie won’t last for long as those very two teams will play at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 9, looking to break their respective losing streaks and turn their seasons around.