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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Quinnipiac volleyball battling with inconsistency as MAAC Tournament looms

Quinn O’Neill
Leilani-kai Giusta, Fa’avae Kimsel Moe, Damla Gunes, Alexandra Tennon, Lexi Morse (left to right) celebrate as they finish off Rider University 3-0 on October 15th, 2023.

 This column was originally set to be published two weeks ago. Back then, this piece would have likely been more positive. However, a lot has changed with Quinnipiac volleyball in the time since. 

The team is in the midst of quite possibly its best regular season in the program’s Division I history. The Bobcats will enter the MAAC Tournament with a first-round bye after securing the No. 2 seed following a 3-0 win against Siena on Nov. 5. 

Quinnipiac’s 18 overall wins and 14 conference wins are both the most in head coach Kyle Robinson’s tenure. Graduate outside hitter Aryanah Diaz became the second Bobcat in its Division I history to reach 1,000 career kills. Sophomore hitter Ginevra Giovagnoni and sophomore setter Damla Gunes are candidates for MAAC Player and Setter of the Year, respectively. The amount of hardware this team could take home at the conference awards would be unprecedented. 

Despite all of the accolades and potential recognition, this squad feels like it’s missing something — an “it” factor if you will. The level of optimism surrounding this team entering the MAAC Tournament seems much lower than last year. But it isn’t 2022 anymore, and the Bobcats know that. 

“We came into this season deciding that this year wasn’t going to be like last year,” sophomore middle blocker Bailey Brashear said on Oct. 29. “So even though it might have looked a little bit like last year, we didn’t want it to be like that.” 

In years past, Robinson’s squad tended to start slow and then end the season on a very strong high note. This year, it looks like everyone on the team is playing jazz; you never know which note is coming next. It could swell to a 3-1 victory against Fairfield, and then what feels like two seconds later, it could drop three straight sets to Rider and lose 3-2. 

The aforementioned match against Fairfield was the only time this season that the Bobcats looked good enough to repeat as champions. Every other match has been unconvincing. 

A 14-4 record in the MAAC tells you nothing about this team’s performance. There were too many points this season where the team came out flat and lifeless, but not all of those performances were punished with losses. Giving credit where it’s due, the Bobcats did not lose two games in a row throughout conference play. 

“We’ve just got to focus better. Focus more,” Robinson said after a 3-1 loss to Marist on Nov. 4. “Our attitude, effort and focus level was what was major for us. It was mediocre today. So I just don’t expect it to be mediocre tomorrow. Or if it is, this same thing could happen.” 

Even with a regular season-concluding victory over winless Saint Peter’s on Nov. 12, Quinnipiac is entering tournament play with questions to answer. 

As the No. 2 seed in the bracket, Quinnipiac will play the winner of the match between No. 3 Marist and No. 6 Iona in in the semifinals Saturday. The Bobcats split the season series with the Red Foxes and despite sweeping the Gaels in the regular season, they’ll be in for a tough matchup no matter what. 

Quinnipiac should be praying it won’t play Marist come Saturday. The Red Foxes cut through the Bobcats like a medium-rare steak their last time out on Nov. 4, with players like Sasha van der Merwe and Jordan Newblatt combining for 41 kills and the Marist block stuffing the Quinnipiac offense 16 times. Then again, Marist isn’t exactly known for postseason success as of late, considering the Red Foxes have not won a MAAC Tournament match since 2019. 

Inconsistency aside, the Bobcats have too much talent to go one and done in the tournament. In the clutch moments, the times where they need every little thing to go right, the Bobcats have always pulled through. 

“When we serve well and pass well, we can beat anyone,” Robinson said. “We’ve shown that.” 

But as the defending champions, Quinnipiac had a target on its back from day one of the 2023 season. Every team wants to beat the Bobcats. 

“The other teams are always coming for us,” Gunes said on Sept. 30. “We’re actually the hunted team now as Coach Kyle says.” 

So for this team to repeat in the MAAC, it’s going to need to get mean, it’s going to have to scratch and claw its way to each and every point. That mindset needs to apply all the way down to the bench, from players to the coaching staff. And it seems as if they’re already working on it. 

“I’m not a huge yeller,” Robinson said on Nov. 4. “Even in the matches, when you see me yelling, it’s purposeful. I think that part of the issue with our team and our program, and it’s been this way for years, it’s just that sometimes we’re too nice and we don’t fight all the time.” 

It looks like the Bobcat faithful are just going to have to trust him that the work is getting done. The MAAC hasn’t had a repeat champion since Fairfield won three straight titles from 2015 to 2017. Maybe Quinnipiac will be a trendsetter. 

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Michael LaRocca
Michael LaRocca, Opinion Editor
Quinn O’Neill
Quinn O’Neill, Associate Multimedia Editor

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