MOON TOWNSHIP– The 2019 season has been so far, so good for the RMU volleyball team. For the first time ever, Robert Morris has started the season 7-0 and they will try to keep that streak going when they take on the Hampton Pirates, Rider Broncs, and Maryland Eastern Shore Hawks at the Henson’s Hawk Invitational in Princess Anne, Maryland. Robert Morris defeated Duquesne at home Tuesday night three sets to zero. The huge win is the teams first over Duquesne in 12 years.
The Colonials come into the tournament with momentum after a big win Tuesday night over rival Duquesne at the UPMC Events Center to continue their hot start. Junior middle blockers Maria Alfano and Emma Granger have been RMU’s main sources of offense, and the team can credit their success to only going to a fifth set once. The young Colonials will look to continue this hot start that has provided them confidence, and improve to 10-0.
Hampton enters the invitational 3-2 on the season but could easily be 5-0, losing to both Saint Peter’s University and Siena College in the fifth set. The Pirates come into the 2019 season looking to improve after going 8-19 last season, only winning one game on the road all year. They will look to build off of an improved start in their first game of the tournament against RMU.
Previewing Maryland Eastern Shore
The Hawks have lost four games in a row coming into Friday afternoon. Even though Maryland Eastern Shore has struggled, going 2-5, their losses have all come in either four or five sets. The 2018 season was a struggle as well, going 10-16 overall but 4-8 on the road. The Hawks, the hosts of the tournament, will take home-court advantage with them while striving to get back on track before conference play begins.
The Broncs (2-6) have played the worst of any team heading into the weekend, but have performed better as of late. Rider lost its first six games to start the season but swept both Norfolk State and Radford at Radford’s tournament last week. This difficult start is unusual for the Broncs, who went 19-11 (12-6 in conference) over the course of the 2018 season. They should pick up their play this weekend and get closer to .500.
Players to Watch
Maria Alfano (RMU)
A 6’2’’ junior from Seneca Valley high school, Alfano has been RMU’s second-best offensive weapon this season. She has recorded 60 kills and 37 total blocks in the Colonials six games this season. Four of the six games she has recorded 10+ kills with 16 against Elon, her season-high. The one-two punch of Alfano and Granger will help lead the RMU offense all year long.
Gabby Calloway (Hampton)
With a well-balanced offense with no go-to player, Calloway has been the best of them all. This outside hitter, standing at only 5’8’’, has recorded 60 total kills and dominated against St. Francis Brooklyn putting the ball away 20 times. Only a sophomore, she will continue to improve and be a threat to opposing teams for years to come.
Morgan Romano (Rider)
It’s not often that a freshman comes into a new program and is the best player right away, but Romano has been just that for Rider. Romano, a lefty 5’10’’ right-side hitter, has already put up 117 kills in eight games. Her best game, against Toledo, saw her record 24 kills, four blocks and 10 digs. Romano will anchor the Broncs offense and will continue to get better, and the sky is the limit.
Ivana Blazevic (Maryland Eastern Shore)
This senior setter is the catalyst of the Hawks game, recording nearly 200 assists (199). The 6’1’’ Blazevic has also recorded 21 kills and 18 service aces, the most on the team. She will continue to be one of the most important players on the team and a key reason for any team success.
The Colonials will go into Maryland and make the trip worth it, going 3-0. Rider and Maryland Eastern Shore should be easier games for Robert Morris to come out with a win in, while Hampton will provide the biggest test. RMU will prove that they are a team on the rise and improved over last season.