Just one year after squeezing into the postseason as a five-seed, the Rowan volleyball team has earned a first-round bye in the 2018 New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Championship Tournament.
The Profs secured the second seed in the conference in great fashion, sweeping Rutgers-Newark 3-0 on Tuesday night to wrap up NJAC play for the regular season. Not only does the win give the brown and gold some rest before the postseason begins next week, but it officially gives them their first winning season since 2013, when the team went 23-9 and 7-1 in the NJAC. They lost to then-Richard Stockton College 3-1 in the Championship game that year.
With two games yet to play, the worst Rowan can end this season is 17-15. They finished 6-2 in the conference.
The current Profs team is like no other in recent memory. A unique mix of upperclassmen and underclassmen have formed the 2018 squad into one that has 10 sweeps this season. That’s more than half of their wins coming with the score of 3-0.
Offensively, it’s been the veterans that have set the tone. Juniors Kailey Gallagher and Megan Jacobi have combined for 432 kills and both serve as first and second on the team in kills so far, respectively. Seniors Jamie Shirtz and Erin Keegan total 332 together.
90 percent of the team’s 1,047 assists (well, 90.6 percent to be exact) have come from the set of sophomore Tori Mock and freshman Alaina Santacroce. The two have set 949 kills this season so-far.
When it comes to having shovels for hands, Rowan has five players totaling 100 or more digs. Keegan, who notched her 1,000th career dig earlier in the year, leads the team with 434. Sophomore libero Emma Cormican has 403 in her first year as a full-time starter. Senior defensive specialist Kristin Akin broke 200 for the first time in her career, standing with 209. Mock is just three away from hitting 200 herself as well. All the Profs need is Gallagher to get 17 in their last two games of the regular season to have a member of every class break 100 digs on the season, as she would represent the juniors.
The brown and gold complete the quadruple-threat in blocks, having someone from every class have at least 15 blocks for the year, as freshman middle hitter Cassidy Abdalla has exactly 15. Shirtz leads the team with 74 with sophomore Lauren Horbacewicz following with 53.
It was all on display in the seed-clincher Tuesday night, as Rowan out-killed the Scarlet Raiders 37-27, out-dug them 61-49, shared the wealth more with 10 more assists and tied them with four blocks in the sweep.
The Profs head on the road Friday and Saturday to face Neumann University and Cabrini University. It’ll be a homecoming for head coach Deana Jespersen, who spent 10 years as the head of the Neumann pack, winning three conference championships and going 180-155 during her tenure.
Rowan will then host their NJAC Playoff game on November 1st. Their opponent will be set by that Tuesday night.
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