Despite a huge second set victory from the Montclair State University Red Hawks, the Rowan University Profs ground out a 3-1 set victory over Montclair State in a packed house at Panzer Athletic Center.
With the win, the Profs were able to improve their record to 11-7 with a 2-2 record against New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) opponents of the season and snapped a three-game losing streak in the process. Montclair State fell to 7-5 (2-2 NJAC.) The loss ended a four-game winning streak for the Red Hawks. Despite the score seemingly showing that Rowan dominated the contest, the Red Hawks’ fighting spirit throughout the match was something nobody was expecting.
Rowan easily controlled the first set, winning 25-17. The Red Hawks provided little resistance against Rowan’s star player Megan Jacobi, who had 12 kills, and Kailey Gallagher, who had 10 kills. However, the Red Hawks’ offense came alive in the second set, keeping it close throughout. A controversial call was made later in the set, with the Red Hawks’ crowd in an uproar about an apparent Montclair State score that was ruled out. This controversial call seemed to just motivate the Red Hawks even more, as they surged from a 19-18 deficit to win it 25-22 in the second set. Their run was spearheaded by up and coming star, freshman outside hitter Leah Higgins, who had five crucial kills in the second set alone.
Higgins believed the crowd was a big advantage for them despite the loss.
“Volleyball is a very physical sport, but it’s as much of a mental sport than anything, too,” Higgins said. “We needed the energy from our team and our fans.”
A back and forth third set ensued, with Rowan capitalizing on several errors against Montclair State, especially with serving. They were able to limit Montclair State’s kills down the stretch and made some key plays to pull away with a second set victory, 25-21. Rowan continued to put pressure on the Red Hawks, starting off the final set with a 13-6 lead. Although Montclair State tied it later in the set, Rowan pushed through with some spectacular defense, winning 25-23.
Although the Red Hawks were unsuccessful today in capturing their third NJAC win of the year, they were able to fight through adversity and make every set after the first one a close affair. However, the coaching staff knew that improvement will have to be made if the team wants to be contenders in a highly competitive conference.
“Improving every day is what’s most important to us, as we have to learn from every win and loss and continue to get better,” said assistant coach Megan Bartsch. “We want to be ready and at our best by the conference tournament.”
While there is plenty of room for improvement for the team, the coaching staff was very impressed by the performances of some of the players. Along with Higgins, seniors Ashley Griffith (setters) and Natalia Majkut (right side) put on great performances throughout the match. Majkut played especially well in the first and second sets. She was also noted by the coaching staff as being one of the leaders of this team. Griffith had an amazing game as well, as her coaches referred to her as being “the quarterback” of the team. She had a jaw dropping 38 assists in the match, giving the team several different kills throughout the game.
Former player and assistant coach Rebecca Matasker also viewed Griffith as a great leader for young players on the team.
“She’s very levelheaded and is able to keep the team focused throughout the match,” Matasker said. “Especially in the big moments.”
Montclair State will have a chance to bounce back from this loss on Thursday, when they go up against Keystone College on Sept. 28 at Panzer Athletic Center.