The last quarter of the regular season is knocking on the door for the Rowan volleyball team, and with it comes a shot at the New Jersey Athletic Conference Tournament.
Despite their sub-par overall record, the Profs hold a 3-3 conference record. With the tournament featuring the top six teams in the conference, the brown and gold are in a decent spot, currently ranking fifth. They are also in a position to improve their standing with two more games to play against conference opponents.
Out of those two games remaining, Rowan has to win at least one. A 4-4 mark would be good enough to etch their names into the tournament, as they hold tiebreakers over Rutgers-Camden and Rutgers-Newark. Both schools are 2-4, with Rutgers-Newark just beating out Rutgers-Camden for the last spot.
Obviously, a 5-3 finish for Rowan would be great, as they would be on a positive momentum swing heading towards the tournament. Both head coach Deana Jespersen and sophomore middle hitter Jamie Shirtz feel like the feat is possible.
“I feel very confident about it. We are still settling in, and I trust my team in everything,” Shirtz said. “I know we are all good, and we all have the skill, determination, and the motivation to get where we would like to go. We all want it, so we just have to go out there and get it.”
“It would be awesome to go 5-3, but it would be even better just to go out and play really good volleyball,” Jespersen said. “However it falls, it’s how it falls. I just want them to go out and play good ball. We’ve been doing that and went on a nice streak two weeks ago, and have kind of fallen off track this week. One of the next two NJAC games is definitely a must-win, but I want the girls to go out and play hard, as they always do.”
The Profs have had a down year compared to recent campaigns. In 2013, the team finished the season with a 23-9 record. They are a very young team still trying to solidify an identity for themselves in the NJAC, but one thing is certain; they play extremely hard.
Out of 24 games played, Rowan has gone into the fourth and fifth sets in exactly half of them. It was something mentioned a lot from members of the team; that they are so close in most games, and just aren’t finishing strong enough.
This has been a learning process for many of the players, but it is also a very hard test that Jespersen wanted to take this season.
Before the season began, the third-year coach made sure that Rowan would have more challenging non-conference opponents in order to prepare them for this time of the year.
“I purposefully made this schedule tough in order for us to be prepared for tournament play, and I know that from past experiences that you can win your conference, but be completely unprepared for what lies ahead moving forward,” Jespersen said. “I knew that the only shot we had to beating these top teams, is to be prepared for them with a tough schedule. The non-conference schedule that I prepared is indicative of us playing above where we are now, to be as ready as we can be.”
The schedule has proved to be tough on Rowan, as they hold a 7-17 overall record, but that 3-3 NJAC record is what’s keeping them alive for the tournament. They have proven to be a very tough team, and should be able to cause some problems for other teams during that first week in November.
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