By ADMIR DURAKOVIC
(TEANECK) – The Knights hosted Saint Francis University on Saturday but conceded defeat in a 3-1 set loss. The result set the Knights’ overall record back to 2-12, and their conference record to 0-2.
SFU had their overall record boosted to 5-10 and their conference record to 1-1.
The Knights are trying to bounce back from an underwhelming 2017 season that had them finishing with an overall record of 5-24 and a conference record of 1-13.
The Knights roster this season features eight returning players from last season and seven fresh faces.
“It’s all new people trying to get to learn how to play with each other,” said head coach Andrea Nolan-Boyd, “We knew we had to get in these bigger players, stronger athletes, (when) taking over the program last year and bringing in our freshman class and getting some height.”
Of the six starters for the Knights, all six were underclassmen.
“It does affect (the game) when you have younger players out there against some of the more seasoned players who have been together for a couple of years,” said Nolan-Boyd.
The roster of 15 features one senior player, senior defensive specialist Libby Bell, and three juniors, opposite hitters Erika Sullivan and Emma Liller, and middle hitter Abigail Strebig.
“(There’s) not too much pressure (on the upper classmen). I think they are looking to take on leadership roles to help out some of our newcomers, some of our freshman,” said Nolan-Boyd, “Not all of my upperclassmen get as much playing time as everyone else, but they know their roles and they do well with the leadership aspect off the court, making sure everyone knows what we do, how we travel and practice. It’s nice to have some of those older players here. It’s all a learning curve for everyone.”
The Knights got off to a hot start against SFU scoring the first point of the match getting a block on SFU after a long rally. The team carried that momentum for the entire first set to win 25-14.
SFU bounced back in the second set winning 25-14 to tie up the match. SFU managed to score three consecutive points on four separate occasions in the second set.
“We stopped moving our feet, and they definitely picked up their offense,” said Nolan-Boyd, “They didn’t really do much at all in the first set, they started running a quicker tempo, using their middles, and our girls looked surprised and we weren’t ready for it. We just kinda hit the brakes.”
SFU in turn carried that momentum to come back from the break and win the last two sets 25-15 and 25-18 respectively.
Coming out of the halftime break period the Knights tried switching into a formation with one setter as opposed to two, to no avail.
“We’re just trying to work and we haven’t done that lineup ever, said Nolan-Boyd. “We’ve been doing the 6-2 most of the season. So to go to one setter, with our shorter setter in the front row (Corina Beimers), we tried it. If what you were doing isn’t working you have to try something.”
Despite the loss the coach found a couple of positive performances to take away from the match.
“Erika Sullivan, our junior, she really stepped up today, said Nolan-Boyd. “We worked her hard in practice this week because she didn’t have that great of a weekend, last weekend. So she really stepped up for us this weekend which is great going into conference play.”
Sullivan completed the match with a double-double, with 13 kills and digs.
“Our freshman setter, Corina Beimers, she suffered an injury the first weekend but now she’s back and she’s just fast and quick,” said Nolan-Boyd, “She brings that spark to the team out there. It’s nice to have a junior and a freshman working hard, those two really stepped it up.”