The Rowan volleyball team is headed to the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) tournament, starting Nov. 7, when they face William Paterson in the quarter-final round. One player that will help support the team throughout the tournament is freshman Ciara Bradley.
Bradley’s first season with Rowan has been up and down, but she has always loved the sport and the relationships that she has been able to form already.
“I started playing in fourth grade because my sister played, then my parents introduced it to me,” Bradley said. “I found Rowan through [Villa Maria Academy]’s volleyball coach. She introduced me to [Head Coach Deana] Jespersen, then I was invited for a tour, and I loved it.”
Jespersen knew Bradley’s high school coach and was a crucial part of getting Bradley to Rowan.
“Her coach was an old friend of mine. I was looking for a middle, and she had recommended Ciara to me,” Jespersen said. “So I had a couple of connections and then started watching [Bradley] play, then she came to our camp and ended up liking the girls, and it was a good fit.”
First impressions are always important when evaluating a new member of the team, and Jespersen remembers what she thought of Bradley the first time she watched her play.
“I thought she was really athletic and fast, I liked that she was aggressive when she plays. I liked her energy, her enthusiasm, and passion for the sport,” Jespersen said. “I think, especially over her four years here, she’s just going to continue to grow as long as she has a growth mindset.”
Bradley has had to face some tough competitors in her first season but has displayed her skills in those matches by totaling six assists, 153 kills, 35 digs, and 435 total attacks in her rookie season.
“I love that volleyball is a team sport, but it’s also competitive. You can have good plays on your own but it’s a team aspect,” Bradley said.
While her talent has helped lead to these numbers, Bradley has also been guided by her teammates and coaches throughout her rookie season as a Prof.
“My teammates pushed me every day to be better because we compete with each other in practice,” Bradley said. “We have at least 5 coaches and they are super helpful with film, stats, and just being there for us as people. Which I think is the best thing about Rowan volleyball is that our coaches react to us as people, not players and I think that’s super important.”
As her first regular season is coming to a close, Jespersen is proud of the growth that Bradley has shown as a person and a player.
“In the beginning of the season, she was a little bit more reserved, and maybe just trying to find a way as a freshman,” Jespersen said. “She has the drive to win, and she wants to win. She wants her team to perform well and understands that she is a huge part of that performance.”
Bradley is hoping to continue to grow in Rowan’s volleyball program in the next few seasons.
“I’m just really excited to grow as a player and a person,” Bradley said. “I’m ready to step into a leadership role and be able to help everybody on our team to achieve our common goal with is another NJAC Championship.”
As the NJAC tournament approaches, Bradley and the rest of the Profs will spend as much time as they can perfecting their game for their match against William Paterson.
“We’re just focused on coming into the gym and making sure that we put the work in and showing up in the tournament starting next week,” Bradley said.