Rowan volleyball continued to maintain its winning streak on Thursday, Sept. 15, as they powered past Cabrini University in three sets to move to 9-0 for the year.
The Profs and Cavaliers exchanged points in the first set, which came down to the wire. Rowan was propelled by an 11-4 run at the end of the first set to help the Profs secure the opening set, 25-18.
The experience of this Profs team, who returned all but one this season, showed. Senior middle hitter Courtney Rhoden, who sparked the offense and defense, explained why the team was able to have so much success against Cabrini.
“I think part of it is we’ve played together for now, me and Simone [Sparano] obviously all four years, Brooke [Adams] two years now. We have basically the same team as last year, so I think a lot of that chemistry really helps us,” Rhoden said. “We’re just all in it together and we work a lot about our culture, and just how to be a unit and I think it really shows up.”
Fifth-year outside hitter Natalie Ogden led the Profs with six kills in the first set, while sophomore setter Brooke Adams chipped in with ten assists. On the defensive side, Ogden had four digs while senior libero Simone Sparano had ten.
In the second set, the Profs and Cavaliers nearly went point for point. However, after two points in a row, Cabrini made the set 24-23 with Rowan ahead by one and Head Coach Deana Jespersen called a timeout. This proved to be pivotal in swinging the momentum towards the Profs’ favor.
“We just talked about how they [Cabrini] just continued to score, I think we had just made a couple of mistakes in a row,” Coach Jespersen said. “And I had told them that even though they made those mistakes, that the play was right so just to go back out and to still take risks, not to hold off and not to worry about the point, just play as if you’re just playing for one point like we do all the time.”
An attack error by the Cavaliers sealed the deal for the Profs as they kept Cabrini off the board, rallying 25-23 in the second set.
At the end of the second set, Ogden was up to 11 kills, while freshman Jena Kaul climbed the ladder with five kills of her own. Adams, sophomore outside hitter Sydni Greenwood and sophomore middle hitter Isabel Kirchner each added three kills.
Adams expressed the importance of distributing the wealth and allowing a multitude of hitters to get involved.
“There’s always the one hitter who’s on fire and you want to get the ball to them, but it’s also important to spread it out because you can’t set the same person every time,” Adams said. “We’ve really been working on that, because last year I would always go to Natalie [Ogden], so this year I’ve been really been working on spreading it out and it’s been working. The coach [Cabrini Head Coach Eric Schaefer] literally said ‘we don’t know what to do because they’re setting everyone.”
On the defensive side of things, Rhoden had two solo blocks and two blocks assisted which led the Profs in both categories.
“It’s really just about doing it for my team,” Rhoden said. “I just know that that’s my part in the game and I have to do that as well as possible because that benefits everyone else and without me, everything else gets messed up.”
After yet another back-and-forth set, the Profs went on a 12-0 run to catapult them to victory in the third set.
A combination of clean attacks, a strong defense and Sparano’s serves down the stretch helped Rowan secure the victory.
“Defense was great, holy crap. Defensively I just thought we were locked in. I felt like they took command of the game, took control of the game,” Coach Jespersen said. “They had a different focus and intensity about them tonight, we changed our defense slightly and it worked, and they seemed to play better in it. So I’m excited to see if we keep that and keep doing that in the future.”
Adams noted the preparation that went into the game which helped the defense stay strong.
“We played defense really well,” Adams said. “They do a really weird offense, they tip a lot, so yesterday at practice we worked on playing our defense to play them, and it definitely worked.”
Sparano served on all 12 points of the Profs at the end of the third set, which boosted Rowan’s momentum and secured the win.
“What the hell was that? I thought that was phenomenal, I actually said to the team at the end I’m like ‘Simone [Sparano ] literally took the team in that moment and put them on her back and was just like ‘we’re going to finish,” Coach Jespersen said “So as a leader and as a captain to take the team and kind of be like ‘I’m going to take you down the home stretch like that and finish’, that was pretty cool. I was pretty proud.”
The Profs took the third and final set 25-15 to secure the win. Game highs for the Profs were Ogden who had 15 kills, Adams who had 27 assists, Sparano who had 17 digs and Rhoden who totaled six blocks.
The Profs will look to continue their stellar start to the year when they play Goucher College and Eastern University on Saturday, Sept. 17.
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