When Rowan volleyball was crowned New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) champions last season, Natalie Ogden was at the helm of the team.
With a chance to repeat as champions, make a run in the NCAA tournament and accomplish personal milestones, Ogden made it clear at the beginning of the season that there was never a doubt in her mind she would return for her fifth season.
“If I have one more year of college volleyball left, I feel like I have to take it,” Ogden said in an interview earlier this year. “I’m not ready to be done.”
With a team-leading 419 kills last season, 403 digs, and being named an All-American by the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA), Ogden statistically had her best season.
This season, she was able to continue at that pace as well. In the home opener against Muhlenberg College, Ogden was able to grab her 1,000th career dig, joining 14 other Profs who were able to accomplish this milestone. Against Stevenson this past Saturday, Oct. 8, Ogden was able to once again solidify her name in the record books as she reached 1,000 kills.
It has been a well-deserved and long journey for Ogden as Head Coach Deana Jespersen describes, she waited her turn to shine and she has done so ever since.
“I still think about Natalie [Ogden] as a freshman still sometimes, and I look at her as a super senior. When she was a freshman, she was on the sidelines; she didn’t play. So she was behind players as a freshman, but knowing what her potential was,” Coach Jespersen said. “And then when she started to get her time as a sophomore, I think she realized how good she could be within the conference. As a junior, she became determined to not only take the team on her back as a player, and lead by example, but she was determined to break barriers. Then, she started to really work differently. When she comes to practice now, she’s ready to work
“She doesn’t take any plays off, she doesn’t take any moments off.”
Ogden went from only 38 kills and 21 matches played her freshman year, to 315 kills in 2019 and has been getting stronger each season.
Now in her fifth year, the veteran on the team also referred to as “Grandma” by her teammates and coaches has put in the work to lead the team on and off the court.
Simone Sparano, the team’s senior libero reflects on Ogden’s leadership and worth ethic and what it means to the team.
“When we got the news that she was coming back for her fifth year we were so excited because she really does lead us on the court and we just love playing around her, and it’s just so awesome to see where she’s come [from],” Sparano said. “She’s been here longer than any of us, she knows how to keep her composure during tough situations, and she’s always there to talk to off the court, she’s one of my best friends.”
She has led the team both offensively and defensively with 419 kills and 3.46 kills per set which led the team last year, and 403 digs and 3.33 digs per set which were second in the team behind Sparano. However, this season she has amassed 231 kills in 17 matches as well as 172 digs.
“It’s ridiculously hard, first of all, you don’t typically have a player who is capable of achieving both. You typically don’t have such a well-rounded player that is equally as good in the front row as they are in the back row, that’s not common,” Coach Jespersen said. “Natalie [Ogden], that kid is in every serve [to] receive rotation, every defensive rotation, we put her in positions where she can be successful because she is such a beast.”
In an earlier interview, Ogden added some key insight to how her stats are so high.
“A big part of our play is,” Ogden said. “Every ball we want to get a touch on, every set I get I want to crush it.”
With the 1,000 kills and the 1,000 digs that Odgen has been able to reach, she becomes the first player in program history to accomplish this feat, and just the third all-time to collect 1,000 kills.
Sparano adds to the level of skill it takes to lead the team on both ends of the ball.
“It’s incredibly hard, she’s the first Prof to ever do it, which is absolutely insane,” Sparano said. “But hitting one is hard in itself, but hitting both of them is crazy, that just shows how all around, how great of a player she is.”
Rowan will surely miss Ogden and everything she has done for the program after her time is done, but with eight matches to go until the NJAC playoffs, Ogden and the 16-3 Profs can continue their quest for another title and an NCAA tournament berth.
“Once she’s done killing you on the front row, she’s in the back row digging the crap out of you,” Coach Jespersen said. “She does both equally well and she focuses on both equally well. It’s super hard to do that because it’s not common to have a player that is talented in both areas.”
For comments/questions about this story tweet @TheWhitSports.