Welcome to a New Age: Volleyball’s freshman and sophomore classes show out at Profs Invitational

The volleyball team huddle up before heading to action at the Profs Invitational. The team went 4-0 on the weekend. Staff Photographer/Ray Baldassari

Down two sets to one and on the brink of falling a pair of games under .500, the Rowan volleyball team found themselves clinging to a 19-18 lead in set four, pushing for a fifth.

The tug of war would lean toward visiting Swarthmore College, who took set four 25-21 on Oct. 12 of last season.

What does a middle-of-the-season game against a non-conference opponent have to do with anything?

It could’ve very well been the beginning of an era for the brown and gold. One held down by now-starting libero Emma Cormican.

The then-freshman put up her best defensive game of the 2017 season mid-October, tallying 18 digs in the 3-1 loss. Less than a year later, Cormican matched her career high with 18 against Wells College in Rowan’s first game of the season. Just a few days ago, she dug 29 balls against Ursinus College to cap off a perfect 4-0 sweep for Rowan at the Profs Invitational this past weekend.

No Rowan player has produced more than 28 digs in a single game since Casey Grasso’s 38 back in 2013.

“It’s super different,” Cormican said. “I went from not playing as much last year because we had an amazing libero. I find myself pushing myself more.”

Being able to see the game from the sidelines might seem like a bummer to some, but to others, it serves as a chance to learn. This is something that Cormican took full advantage of.

“Even not playing last year and seeing how the game goes, just having one year under your belt, makes a world of a difference when you play,” Cormican said. “It’s a big change compared to high school and I don’t think, coming in a freshman, you’re fully prepared for that. So just seeing how the team played last year and how they filled the gym kind of instilled that same competitiveness in my class and the ones above us.”

Aside from Cormican’s dynamic on the team, it’s not hard to see the roll that fifth year head coach Deana Jespersen has the brown and gold on to start the season. And no, it is not confirmed if said roll is buttered or not. Next paragraph.

The 6-2 start is the best that Rowan has seen under Jespersen and most of the early success the team has found comes from the in-game developments made during the invitational.

In the first game of four, freshman outside hitter Natalie Ogden finished second on the team with 10 kills. Cormican and freshman setter Alaina Santacroce combined for seven aces and sophomore opposite hitter Alexa Gasser tied for first in blocks with three. Game two saw freshman middle hitter Cassidy Abdalla block three balls good enough for second on the team behind Gasser. Cormican’s phenomenal performance of 29 digs came in game four against Ursinus.

“I feel good about this year,” Jespersen said. “We’re older this year, but we are also a lot younger in different ways… We definitely have some great young faces that are contributing to that for sure. Emma is sliding into that libero role and is owning it which I’m super excited about. I coached her when she was playing club so I’ve known her  for a long time. Again, I think we are taking things day by day. We still have a lot to learn but I also think this team has a lot of energy and positive things that we are going to do this year.”

Rowan took on Stockton Tuesday night in their first taste of New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) play of the year. The Osprey took the hard-fought match 3-1. Stockton took the first set 26-24 with Rowan tying it one-all in the second, 25-23. The Osprey won the third 25-17 before rallying from 20-13 in the final set to push overtime and win 30-28. Kailey Gallagher lead the team with 12 kills and four Profs finished with 10 or more digs in the game.

Rowan’s next action takes place Friday at 5 p.m. as they head to Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania for a four-game set at the Blue Jay Classic.

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