by Jon McMenamin
The Rowan University women’s volleyball team has many new faces in 2010. Among the Profs’ 15 players there are three veterans and 12 rookies. Last season, Rowan finished with a 13-17 overall record and a 4-4 conference mark. The Profs advanced to the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Championship Tournament for the third straight year.
“This year we are taller, quicker and more athletic,” said head coach Libby Ranero. “We are more experienced and have a larger group of players. Ironically, in the past few seasons we have been strong defensively. This year, we are strong offensively with a lot of power and if we have a weakness, it is defense.”
The Profs have a solid group of veterans returning. NJAC Rookie of the Year and All-Conference second team selection Katie Havlicek (so. Midland Park, NJ/Immaculate Heart Academy) will once again play at outside hitter. Last season, she was first on the team with 333 kills, 3.17 kills per set and a .231 hitting percentage. She also racked up 340 digs, 37 service aces and 22 blocks.
“Katie brings competitiveness to the team,” stated Ranero. “She has played at a high level for a long time. She challenges herself and her teammates. Katie demands more out of everyone on the floor.”
Also competing for playing time at outside hitter are veteran Megan Mondelli (so. Wayne, NJ/Wayne Valley) and rookies Nikki Binetti (fr. Brick, NJ/Brick Twp.) and Kirstin Sciolaro (fr. Wayne, NJ/Wayne Valley). As a freshman, Mondelli compiled 144 kills, 282 digs, 120 assists and 30 blocks. She was tied for the team lead with 49 service aces. Sciolaro earned All-County and All-Conference first team honors at Wayne Valley High School.
“Megan is an intense competitor,” commented Ranero. “She does well stepping up when challenged and is driven by better competition. Nikki is a strong athlete. She is versatile and can play all three front positions. Nikki is a good defender and can play setter. She is a strong blocker that reads the court well. Kirstin is also versatile and can move to multiple positions.”
The middle blockers will most likely be newcomers Krissy Collins (fr. Williamstown, NJ/Williamstown) and Elaina Hansen (fr. Monroe Twp., NJ/Monroe Twp.). They will have to replace All-Conference honorable mention Chelsea Bowman, who was first on the squad with 54 blocks and second with 235 kills. Collins was a two-time All-Conference and All-South Jersey selection at Williamstown High School.
“Krissy is an incredible athlete,” praised Ranero. “She played against good competition in high school and at the club level. Krissy always wants the ball and takes every point seriously. She is a go-to girl and embraces the role.”
Rookies Kelsey Donovan (fr. Bridgewater, NJ/Bridgewater-Raritan) and Nikki Ciandella (fr. Hoboken, NJ/Roselle Catholic) are competing for the starting setter job. Donovan collected All-State second team and All-Area first team honors as a senior at Bridgewater-Raritan High School.
“Kelsey is a strong setter,” said Ranero. “She has excellent fundamentals and is a good leader with a positive attitude. Kelsey has good mechanics and is very coachable. Nikki will see some playing time.”
Lauren Ruffalo (fr. Marlton, NJ/Cherokee) and Marissa Micciche (fr. Kinnelon, NJ/Kinnelon) are in the running for the libero position. Ruffalo was chosen to the All-Conference first team and All-South Jersey second team at Cherokee High School. Micciche was named to the All-Conference team twice and All-County team once at Kinnelon High School.
“Lauren is quick and has very strong serve receiving skills,” stated Ranero. “She shows incredible range on defense with quick reflexes. Lauren is a good communicator and back court leader. Marissa will contribute defensively and is pushing Lauren.”
The Profs’ other returning player, Sarah Betancourt (jr. Harrington Park, NJ/Northern Valley Old Tappan) and rookies Casey Grasso (fr. Wilmington, DE/Alexis I. duPont), Kaitlin Kemp (fr. Fredericksburg, VA/Massaponax), Dakota Oeskovic (fr. Pine Beach, NJ/Toms River S.) and Tina Yoroshko (fr. Gibbstown, NJ/Gloucester County Institute of Technology) will provide depth at various positions. Last season, Betancourt was tied for the team lead with 49 service aces. She posted 322 digs for a 3.19 digs per set average. Grasso was a two-time All-Conference first team and one-time All-State third team selection at Alexis I. duPont High School.
“Sarah brings leadership to the team,” complimented Ranero. “She has a positive attitude. Sarah can play anywhere on the floor (hitter, setter or defense). She is vocal and has the most experience on the team. Casey will help us out defensively and Kaitlin is an excellent blocker. Dakota is a power hitter that is coming off an injury.”
Rowan will once again see tough competition in its non-conference schedule. The Profs square off against Muhlenberg College (11-13), St. Mary’s College (18-14) and Virginia Wesleyan College (23-9) at the Spartan Best Western Westgate Invitational on September 24-25. At the Hampton Inn Crusader Classic on October 8-9, Rowan plays York College (PA) (18-14) and host Susquehanna University (25-12). The Profs face Goucher College (17-12) on October 26 and travel to Gallaudet University (27-14) on October 29.
In the NJAC Preseason Coaches Poll, Rowan was chosen to finish third. Defending conference champion, Richard Stockton College (27-12, NJAC 7-1) was first. The Ospreys received seven of the nine first place votes. Ramapo College (25-11, NJAC 6-2) followed second and earned two first place votes. Montclair State University (14-16, NJAC 8-0) and Rutgers-Camden (11-14, NJAC 3-5) were fourth and fifth respectively. The Scarlet Raptors were chosen as the dark horse. William Paterson University (21-8, NJAC 5-3) was picked sixth and Kean University (11-15, NJAC 0-8) was seventh. New Jersey City University (7-17, NJAC 2-6), eighth, and Rutgers-Newark (4-26, NJAC 1-7), ninth, rounded out the poll.
“In order to have a successful season, we need to stay disciplined and work on our mechanics,” commented Ranero. “We can’t take things for granted and we cannot allow ourselves to get complacent.”