Giovagnoni leads Quinnipiac into the MAAC Championship as Bobcats sweep Rider in straight sets


Peyton McKenzie

Saturday’s game marks the third time in program history that Quinnipiac volleyball has appeared in the MAAC championship game.

Alexandra Martinakova, Staff Writer

The Quinnipiac volleyball team swept its opponents off the court, beating the Rider Broncs in straight sets in the MAAC semifinals on Friday to advance to the MAAC Championship game against Fairfield.

The Bobcats came into the match against the Broncs more confident than ever, having a 2-0 record against them this season. Freshman outside hitter Ginevra Giovagnoni joined the starting line-up after not playing for the majority of the season due to an injury,  and to start things off, senior outside hitter Aryanah Diaz opened the match with one of her many kills tonight.

Giovagnoni celebrated her 20th birthday today, and what better gift can there be for the Italy native than her team advancing into the finals and her recording 15 kills, one assist and 12 digs in tonight’s match alone.

As with both of the previous matches against the Broncs, the first set was a tug-of-war, both teams exchanging leads throughout the whole set. Neither side made it easy for the other one, with Quinnipiac losing only nine points to service and attack errors, from the 24 Rider managed to score in the first set. 

Giovagnoni went on a rampage, scoring eight kills in this set alone, five of which came amid a run in the middle of the set. With the support of 12 assists from freshman setter Damla Gunes, the Bobcats took the first set 26-24.

The Broncs were nowhere near done, however. They managed to get 16 kills through the Bobcats’ defense in the second set. Senior opposite hitter Morgan Romano and junior outside hitter Tori Schrader scored five each. Diaz evened the score out, while Giovagnoni and freshman outside hitter Yagmur Gunes were a point behind them in the second set alone. 

After three time-outs, two of which were called by Rider in hope of ending Quinnipiac’s run, it took four set points for the Bobcats to jump into a 2-0 lead with Giovagnoni killing the last point ending the second set 28-26.

Despite the Bobcats winning both sets, head coach Kyle Robinson wasn’t satisfied with his team’s performance.

“We haven’t been playing at a really good level, nowhere near close to where we should be,” Robinson said after the second set on ESPN+’s broadcast. “Rider’s a very good team, with a lot of fight, (a) lot of heart and we just can’t keep playing like this if we expect to win this match.”

It looked like his team took this to heart and the third set became borderline embarrassing for the Broncs. Quinnipiac saw its chance at entering the finals, and took it without thinking twice. After a seven point run early, and another five point run later in the set, the Bobcats swept their opponents off the court 25-11, ensuring their advancement into the MAAC finals. The star of the last set proved to be graduate student middle blocker Nicole Legg,who recorded three kills and three service aces.

With Quinnipiac starting the season with a chain of losses, statistically they weren’t the biggest favorites for the MAAC finals. However, Robinson’s attitude reflects none of that.

“We started off the season 1-8 or whatever it was [it was 2-7], we always knew we would be at this point, it was just going to take us getting into our groove and we always knew the skill was there,” Robinson said. “They’ve been putting in this work all season and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

The Bobcats definitely put in the work this afternoon, with Giovagnoni leading the team with 15 kills and Diaz right behind her with 12 and four aces. Damla Gunes recorded 36 assists and sophomore libero Faave Kimsel Moe led the team with 14 digs.  

Quinnipiac will face Fairfield in tomorrow’s finals at 1 p.m, a team it has lost to in straight sets both times they’ve played this season.

“They’re a tough team, just like everyone else in the tournament.” Robinson said after the match for the ESPN+ broadcast. “We believe we can match up with them, they’ve got a lot of really talented players and coaches, but so do we.”

Despite being the underdog, the Bobcats and Robinson will enter the match with their heads held high.

“We don’t play for second, we don’t train for second, we don’t dream about second place. We dream about first place and that’s what we’re planning on doing tomorrow,” Robinson said.