Rowan Volleyball Captures the NJAC Championship After Five Sets With Montclair

Left to right: Rowan's Simone Sparano, Natalie Ogden, and Brooke Adams celebrating after their Championship winning point. Rowan would defeat Montclair State in the NJAC Championship match 3-2. Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. - Staff Photographer / Lee Kotzen

The Rowan volleyball team won in their first match-up this season against Montclair State University on Sept. 21 and 46 days later, they defeated the Red Hawks again 3-2; only this time, it was for the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Championship.

This championship victory has been one that senior captain Cassidy Abdalla and the team has been building up to for her whole career.

“Our first year we got to the semis, sophomore year we got to the finals, and now to win it at home in our gym with everyone around us and coach back, it just was insane,” Abdalla said. “It just all worked. We came into it all confident, because we knew we had all this.”

In the matchup on Saturday, Rowan won the first set of play 25-23 with 14 total kills, three aces, and a (.094) hitting percentage. Senior captain Natalie Ogden finished the set with six kills, while Abdalla finished with two and so did freshman middle hitter Isabel Kirchner.

The Red Hawks committed nine attack errors, while Montclair State had six.

Rowan lost the second set 27-25 despite three kills from Abdalla.

The third set marked the rise of the Red Hawks. Montclair State was playing dominant volleyball with ease. They went on two 5-0 runs making it seemingly impossible for Rowan to keep up on the scoreboard during this set. Montclair State’s seniors Leah Higgins and Delaney St. Pierre each added two kills of their own in the set. In spite of strong efforts, Rowan fell to Montclair State 25-19.

It was do or die for Rowan in the fourth set. Rowan seniors Abdalla and Ogden had eight kills combined, while freshman setter Brooke Adams had three kills, showing off her trick shot she has coined throughout the season where she fakes setting an attack and hitting the ball sideways over the net for a point. In addition, junior defensive specialist Jackie Camponelli’s serving was on point for this set and the entire contest.

“[It’s] at least a 40 mph ball if not more,” Coach Jespersen said. “It’s nasty.”

Ogden also pointed out Camponelli’s infectious attitude and positivity helped her captain a lot during this match.

“Every time I look at Jackie, she always has a smile on her face, so she always cheers me up,” Ogden said. “She always is there to pick me up and that means a lot and I really needed that today, so it means a lot for her to be out there.”

Rowan won the fourth set 25-20 while the grasps of Montclair State were not enough to pull Rowan down in front of their home crowd.

The nerves could be felt all over the gym as the coaches took four combined timeouts in the shortened set which consisted of eight total ties. Rowan finally emerged on top as they defined their “#resilient” motto that senior captains Ogden and Abdalla coined with Coach Jespersen in the off-season as they fought off four Red Hawk match point opportunities down the stretch of the set.

Finally, off an attack error by Red Hawk freshman Kiara Polanco, for the first time in 17 years, Rowan took the NJAC title for the fourth time in the history of the university with the fifth set closing at a score of 19-17.

Rowan takes their next step in their postseason journey as they head to Baltimore to compete in the first round of the NCAA Division III Tournament against Springfield College on Friday, Nov. 12 at 5:30 p.m.

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