The Rowan Profs returned home after the Cortland Red Dragon Classic for their first home games of the season, with a doubleheader between Widener University and the Catholic University of America on Saturday, Sept. 9.
Coming into the doubleheader, the Profs were 1-2 to start their season while their first opponent of the day, Widener, was 2-2 overall.
It was a rough start for Rowan, as they found themselves down two sets to none to begin the day. But, things started looking up during the third set when they started trusting their ability, which caused a shift in momentum.
Sophomore Jena Kaul and the Profs took advantage of long rallies to score the early points. Kaul excelled during the third with several attacks that Widener could not respond to.
“I personally get fired up when that rally keeps going. “Like, it makes me want to work harder,” Kaul said. “No ball is dropping without somebody going for it or wanting to get an exclamation point on that kill.”
The Profs would go on to win the third set, making Widener’s lead two to one. Unfortunately, Rowan dropped the fourth set and as a result, lost the match to Widener by a score of three to one. With another game shortly following, the Profs were focused on putting the loss in the review mirror and preparing to take on Catholic.
During the break, Head Coach Deana Jespersen encouraged her team to have a positive mindset heading into the second game.
“Our words for most of the match were ‘be present, be focused, and have fun,’” Jespersen said. “So, we talked a lot today about being the person. Being the person that wants the ball, being the person that wants to get the job done, not waiting for somebody else to do what you can already do.”
Sophomore Vanessa Hutchinson agreed with Coach Jespersen’s words, which drove her and her teammates to keep fighting.
“In our team meeting before we went out for the second game, Coach was asking us ‘What do we want from this game?’,” Hutchinson said. “We all want to win and she said, ‘You need to find that in you’, and I think we all dug deeper, and we all really want it in that game” Hutchinson stated.
Heading into Rowan’s second game against Catholic, the Profs identified what they needed to change and came out with a bang by scoring eight consecutive points at the beginning of the first set.
“I thought as a team, we really grew up in that second match,” Kaul said. “We did struggle a little bit but I think as the matches progressed, we for sure grew up and started learning our positions and our jobs.”
Just like in the first match against Widener, the Profs took advantage of long rallies against Catholic. The long rallies not only fired up the team but fired up the crowd as well.
“I also love long rallies because it makes you really work hard and earn that reward,” junior Isabel Kirchner said. “It feels like a reward when you are at that point because you’re giving your hardest, giving your all in every single touch you put on the ball.”
The Profs went on to win the first set to take a 1-0 lead in the match over Catholic, but Catholic wouldn’t go away quietly, winning the second set to tie the match. During the third set, the Profs fought at the end of the set to keep tying the match up.
The crowd would erupt whenever Rowan would win a long rally. Unfortunately, this made little difference, as the Profs would lose the fourth set, ultimately dropping the match to Catholic.
Despite losing both matches, the Profs were able to stay positive.
“I think our bench has a big role in that,” Kirchner stated. “We always come up with cheers and we try and lift each other up.”
Although the Profs did not get the outcome they were looking for, they’ve identified what needs to change.
“Well, we have a quick turnaround and we play on Tuesday,” Hutchinson said. “So I think Monday is going to be fixing minor things, it’s the mental side of it, and still maintaining that hunger and that grit.”
Coach Jespersen is looking forward to practice as well.
“We need to work on our serving consistency. We’re actually a really good serving team but we’re erroring more than we’re acing,” Jespersen said. “So I think we need to take a step back and look at serving and how we’re serving and apply some pressure situations for that.”
The Profs will look to break their four-game losing streak when they take on Mary Washington on Tuesday, Sept. 12 at Esbjornson Gymnasium.
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