The Rowan volleyball team continued their stellar performance in New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) matchups, defeating William Paterson University 3-1 to move to 5-0 in conference play.
The Profs started off strong, controlling much of the pace of play for the first two sets. In the opening set, seven different Profs were able to grab kills, and the addition of strong serving were all main factors in the 25-17 first set victory.
Head Coach Deana Jespersen cited how important serving can be and how it can set the tone of the entire match.
“Serving is always important, you don’t win games without serving and passing. And who we are as a team relies heavily on serving, so when our serving isn’t great we’re going to struggle a little bit more,” Coach Jespersen said. “We can take teams out of system with our serve, we can put pressure on certain players with our serve.”
Rowan tallied five service aces in the first set with four of them coming from fifth-year Natalie Ogden, and one from freshman Vanessa Hutchinson. This strong play in the first set translated into the second set, where the Profs were able to go on many scoring runs and grab a dominating second-set victory.
Offensively and defensively the Profs were sound, and with the multitude of ball handling errors and service errors by the Pioneers, Rowan was able to outstretch their lead. In addition to Ogden’s performance, players such as seniors Courtney Rhoden and Simone Sparano were able to step up and play to their strengths.
Sparano sparked the offense with her strong serves while Rhoden was a factor defensively and offensively as she finished the night with three blocks to lead the team and nine kills.
“Our coach really told us we have to step up and find a new gear in October, and I think our serving all around is one part that makes RUVB [Rowan University Volleyball] so good,” Sparano said. “When she [Coach Jespersen] says ‘turn that up a gear,’ I really try to focus on my serve because that’s how we get the other team out of system and everything going on our side. It makes things easier on our side when we have that strong serve.”
The Profs were able to grab multiple double-digit leads throughout the set and eventually extended to a 14-point lead by finishing off the set 25-11 the biggest margin of difference throughout the entire match.
With the Profs up 2-0 heading into the third set, the Pioneers were able to counter with their own attack, making adjustments and forcing the match to go to a third set. A strong hitting percentage of .303 and hefty scoring runs were the main factors in William Paterson’s third set 25-18 victory.
Coach Jespersen reflected on how it is important for the team not to get complacent, and how they bounced back in the eventual fourth set to grab the win.
“[I was] reminding them to play their game. Sometimes, when you get an early lead like that and a team kind of comes back, it almost takes you by surprise a little bit,” Coach Jespersen said. “We played so flawless set one and two and that third set when they started to make their run and they had mixed up some things and did some things differently, we had this groove and now all of a sudden we’re falling apart a little bit and we didn’t know how to capture it back. [I] just reminded them of who we are and what we do and getting back out there and just resetting.”
The Profs played their style of volleyball and showcased confidence and power in the fourth set. The deep arsenal of weapons was on display for Rowan with players such as Brianna Newson and Jena Kaul stepping up, in combination with the already strong performances from Ogden and Rhoden.
“It’s amazing, I think we are so versatile down our whole entire bench and everybody’s able to pass, everybody’s able to hit,” Sparano said. “We trust each other so much, we are all such well-rounded volleyball players that it just makes life easier.”
Three Profs amassed double-digit kills, with Ogden leading the way with 12 and Kaul and Newson adding ten, while Rhoden chipped in with nine. Sparano recorded 15 digs, while Ogden added 14 and setter Brooke Adams led the way with 49 assists.
In total Rowan had ten service aces and 56 kills for a .254 hitting percentage, which has propelled them to 5-0 in NJAC play and a 15-2 record on the season.
Rhoden describes the tone that the Profs are aiming to set in the conference, but knows the team will take it one step at a time.
“5-0 is pretty hard to beat,” Rhoden said. “We’re obviously striving to go 8-0 again just like last year, but we’re taking it a game at a time and one point at a time.”
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