The Rowan volleyball team returned to its home stage on Thursday, Sept. 28, to take on the conference rival Montclair State Red Hawks. Both times came into the match looking for their first conference win, leading to some very close sets throughout the day.
Montclair grabbed the early advantage in the first set, taking a small 5-2 lead, however, sophomore Jena Kaul’s amazing spike started to change the tides for Rowan.
Kaul’s shot led to a long rally between the two teams; one that was filled with so many miraculous plays as juniors Isabel Kirchner and Nia Ipeker worked together to block a shot at the net. Then, sophomore Vanessa Hutchinson saved the point, which led to junior Kyra Hissner ending the rally with a great shot which sent the crowd into a frenzy.
Junior Brooke Adams believes it’s crucial for Rowan to stay alive during extended rallies.
“It can definitely get exhausting when you have a long point, you’re constantly running, jumping, you have to be locked in the whole time,” Adams said.
Adams and freshman Ciara Bradley would show off their teamwork skills as Adams would set up a shot for Bradley that Montclair would hit out of bounds. This was just one instance of the Profs heavily relying on their team communication against the Red Hawks.
“We’ve had a lot of matches where our communication has dwindled,” Ipeker said. “We’re here together to really build that camaraderie, that chemistry, and communicating that through before every single point.”
Rowan won the first set 25-16 and was able to take this momentum into the second set as they grabbed the first four points. The Red Hawks didn’t go away though as they would take the lead a few times throughout the middle of the set and even tied it at 23.
With the game tied, Rowan took a timeout to regroup. When the game resumed, Kaul would hit a beautiful shot that Montclair could not stop. During the next point, Hissner’s serve would get tipped by the net but Montclair was able to return it, Kaul would hit in the gap of two Montclair players, winning the second set for the Profs by a score of 25-23.
The third set was another nail-biter until the very end. With Montclair ahead 24-22, Hissner hit a shot after a long rally that Montclair tipped and went out to put Rowan behind by just a point.
After a timeout, Rowan got right back to work as the Profs would win the next three points to defeat Montclair in three straight sets and secure their first win against a New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) opponent this season.
Now with their first conference win under their belt, Ipeker and the rest of the team are so happy to be a part of the victory.
“I knew I was coming into a winning program and I knew we were going to have a lot of work to do after graduating so many people,” Ipeker said. “All season long we’ve said from the very beginning ‘trust the process’ and it hasn’t paid off until tonight.”
No one may have been happier than Head Coach Deana Jespersen.
“I think I threw my clipboard. I just love this team so much, they’re just an awesome group of girls,” Jespersen said. “They continue to believe, they believe in me, they believe in the coaches, and they believe in each other.”
With 14 games left in the regular season, Coach Jespersen believes that the early season out-of-conference games can help them down the stretch.
“We’re struggling with out of conference a little bit because our schedule is so tough,” Jespersen said. “I’m hoping that our schedule strength will pay off by helping us play like we did tonight in the conference and then hopefully be able to win.”
Now with two straight NJAC games coming up, the Profs will get back to work as they try to build off this victory.
“You get 24 hours to either grieve or celebrate, so tomorrow is another day,” Jespersen said. “We’ll go into Tuesday and hopefully get another win or hopefully build some momentum.”
The Profs will look to build more momentum when they face Rutgers-Newark this Tuesday at Esbjornson Gym.