Volleyball drops their first conference match of the season against Rutgers-Camden

Nia Ipeker prepares to hit the ball. - Photo via Rowan Athletics

Friends and family members of the Rowan volleyball team gathered in Esbjornson Gymnasium in Glassboro on Tuesday, Sept. 19 to watch the Profs take on the Rutgers-Camden Scarlet Raptors. 

The Profs entered this game with a 2-7 record while riding some momentum after snapping their seven-game losing streak last Saturday, Sept. 16. Rutgers-Camden entered the match having won two consecutive games while sporting a 4-5 record overall. The Scarlet Raptors are the first New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) opponent that Rowan has faced this season. 

The first set began with Rutgers-Camden taking an early 3-1 lead, but Rowan has proved time and time again that they don’t give up when trailing early. Sophomore Jena Kaul responded by sparking a Profs’ run with a great shot in the back corner of the court that Rutgers-Camden could not reach. 

The Profs’ offensive surge did not throw the Scarlet-Raptors off their game, as followed up by jumping out to a 17-9 lead. At this point, Rowan started began turning the momentum back in their direction with a serve by Kaul that Rutgers-Camden couldn’t reach. 

Rowan kept fighting in an attempt to force the first set to go to extra points. Ultimately, Rutgers-Camden won the first set 26-24, securing a 1-0 lead in the match despite Rowan’s comeback attempts. 

The Scarlet Raptors kept the momentum rolling, as they won the second set 25-16 to take a 2-0 lead in the match. 

With their backs against the wall, Head Coach Deana Jespersen decided to make some changes in an attempt to alter the team’s chemistry on the court. 

“A lot of teams would have lost two sets and start arguing with one another, falling apart, and not being supportive of their teammates that are getting playing time,” Jespersen said. “Two starters got taken out of a game, not because they were playing poorly, but to give somebody else an opportunity to see if we could change the chemistry.”

As Rowan made changes to their rotations, the aforementioned starters on the bench showed enthusiasm towards their teammates on the court. 

“I looked down at the people that were replaced and they were cheering just as loud and being just as supportive,” Jespersen said. “So I’m proud of them, because that’s the kind of women that they are.” 

The third set was a tight one that looked like it had the potential to go to extra points. Throughout the set, Rowan was able to thrive off of beautifully placed shots. Some were in the back corner of the court, while others were shot down the line of the court and remained in play.

One particular key play for Rowan occurred during another long rally. Rutgers-Camden hit a laser of a shot that junior Kyra Hissner was able to save to keep the point going. The ball was set up for junior Maya Iovacchini, who scored the final point of the rally. 

After the point was over, the crowd erupted with cheers for the Profs. Rowan used that energy to win the third set 25-21. Going into the fourth set, Rowan had momentum on their side and was able to keep Rutgers-Camden quiet offensively. 

In order for Profs to stay in the match, multiple players stepped up their defense, with one being senior Alexa Blue, who provided three blocks against the Scarlet Raptors. The Profs won the fourth set convincingly, 25-16.

Entering the shorter fifth set, the fans in the crowd were on an emotional rollercoaster but were ready for more. Rutgers-Camden took an early 5-3 lead, but of course, Rowan didn’t give up and kept the set close. 

Kaul hit two shots in a row out of bounds, giving Rutgers-Camden a 9-6 lead. After a timeout, Kaul would get a chance at redemption. The sophomore hit the next ball that came to her right on the line of the court, a spot where Rutgers-Camden had absolutely no chance to recover. 

The Scarlet Raptors had the momentum early on in the set and wound up winning 15-8, which won them the match by a final score of 3-2. With the loss, the Profs now fall to 2-8 on the season. 

Coach Jespersen believes the Profs could’ve played better overall.

“I’ve seen us play our very, very best this season and that wasn’t it. I operate as a positive person, so there’s a lot of positive things to take away,” Jespersen said. “Losses make you hungry, losses teach you lessons. So I know we’ll bounce back.”

Junior Sydni Greenwood, who had six kills and four blocks, believes that they need to starts games with the same energy they have at the end of matches.

“I feel like we have not walked into a single match going straight after the ball with the utmost energy,” Greenwood said. “I think that’s something that we need to work on. I think we need to start trusting each other more, we need to start having more intensity because we have a target on our back.”

Freshman Ciara Bradley echoed Greenwood’s comments.

“We talk a lot about teamwork and ways to be better, and I think we all need to take some time and figure out how we’re going to get into games with that fired-up energy from the beginning,” Bradley said. 

Rowan will look to get back in the win column when they travel to face Gettysburg on Friday, Sept. 22 to face the Bullets.

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