Iona ends season with highest school ranking in MAAC since 2014

Ryan McFadden, Sports Editor

The Iona College volleyball team spent the entire 2017 season proving that they could be a contender in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

The Gaels (16-18, 11-7 MAAC) entered the year ranking ninth in the conference preseason polls. Iona’s start to the season—where the team went 2-9 and suffered a six game losing streak—made the ninth place ranking seem like it could be reality.

However, the Gaels were able to come together and turn the season around at the start of conference play. Iona earned its first conference win of the season against Quinnipiac before going 5-2 in its first seven games against other MAAC teams. It was Iona’s best conference start since 2011.

The Gaels climbed up the conference standings as they beat teams such as Marist, Niagara and rival Manhattan.

As the regular season was drawing to a close, Iona kicked its level of play up another notch by winning six of the last seven games of the regular season.

The entire team and coaching staff fell into tears of joy when they clinched the third seed in the MAAC Volleyball Championship tournament after defeating Marist in a five-set match on Veterans Day. It was the first time Iona earned a trip to the conference tournament since 2014.

Iona continued its strong play in the MAAC tournament as the Gaels defeated sixth seed Quinnipiac before taking down Niagara—the second best team in the conference—to earn a spot in the championship game for the first time in seven years. Juniors Claire Archibald and Mia Bonsignore, who combined for 33 kills, helped the Gaels cruise past Niagara in three sets.

Iona’s “Cinderella Story” came to an unfortunate end at the hands of Fairfield (25-6, 18-0 MAAC), who defeated the Gaels in three sets to claim the MAAC crown on Nov. 19.

From the Gaels’ determination and perseverance to prove doubters wrong to the performances players like Archibald and freshman Jamie Smith displayed throughout the season. There was a lot to take away from Iona’s impressive run at a conference title.

Smith, the MAAC Rookie of the Year, tallied 332 kills with 216 assists and 255 digs. Archibald received All-MAAC First Team honors after she placed third in the nation in service aces (61) and 22nd in kills (485). Junior Emma Rose played a key role in Iona being ranked the fourth best assist team in the conference, and the contributions Bonsignore, sophomore Tess Connolly and seniors Kassandra Darnaby and Shaina Campbell provided were unforgettable as well.

Iona went from being picked ninth to becoming a legitimate contender in the conference and there is still room for growth. The Gaels will be returning a handful of players, who can help compete for the MAAC crown next season.