JERSEY CITY — New Jersey City University won its first two sets in New Jersey Athletic Conference play this season, but was unable to win a third as Rutgers University-Camden rallied from a 2-0 deficit to overcome the Gothic Knights, 3-2 (23-25, 20-25, 25-12, 25-23, 15-9) in an NJAC match on Thursday evening on “Coach Charlie Brown Court” at the John J. Moore Athletics and Fitness Center. It was Camden’s first-ever win over NJCU in Jersey City.
Rutgers-Camden extended its single-season school records for overall and conference wins, improving to 15-11 and 6-1 in the league. NJCU falls to 7-15, 0-6 NJAC. The Knights leads the all-time series, 15-2; Camden has won the last two meetings. This was the first meeting in which the victorious team did not win, 3-0.
The match was played on ‘Dig Pink’ night, as NJCU raised money and provided education materials during October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
NJCU, which played a five-set match for the first time this season, is now 35-30 in the 28-year history of the program when a match goes the distance. NJCU was eliminated from NJAC Tournament contention with the loss.
NJCU sophomore libero AMANDA DOPICO (West New York, NJ/Memorial) matched the team’s season-high and was two digs shy of her career best of 29 while providing 27 digs, often while diving and leaping across the back line of the court to keep the Knights in contention.
Senior setter ALEX JOHANESEN (Bridgewater, NJ/Bridgewater-Raritan) distributed 28 assists to bring her career total to 2,665 helpers. She is now just 12 shy of the program record of 2,677 by Nadia DaSilva Ducos (2004-07). She added eight digs, four kills in nine attempts for a .444 percentage (no errors) and career service ace No. 196.
Rutgers-Camden sophomore setter Stephanie Miller (Cherry Hill, NJ/Cherry Hill East) notched a double-double with 45 assists, 19 digs and three aces.
The Raptors received 52 of its 68 total kills from three players. Junior opposite Katherine Crosby (Marlton, NJ/Cherokee) led the visitors with 19 kills (19-6-45), a .289 percentage and nine digs while sophomore middle hitter Kristin Koloski (Cinnaminson, NJ/Cinnaminson) chalked up a .424 attack percentage with 18 kills (18-4-33). Freshman middle hitter Chelsea Schmotzer (Cherry Hill, NJ/Cherry Hill West) added a .310 percentage with 15 kills (15-6-29) and two blocks.
Camden sophomore libero Catherine Tadeja (Cherry Hill, NJ/Cherry Hill East) equaled Dopico with a match-best 27 digs. The Raptors also received 14 digs and eight kills from sophomore outside hitter Rebecca Brown (Cherry Hill, NJ/Cherry Hill East) and eight digs and four aces by freshman outside hitter Catherine Boljen (Ocean City, NJ/Holy Cross).
NJCU junior outside hitter TABITHA JORDAN (West New York, NJ/Memorial) posted a team-high 12 kills (12-7-58, .103) and added seven digs and two aces. Freshman middle hitter ASHLEY LATUSHKO (Kearny, NJ/Kearny) contributed nine kills, six digs and two aces while sophomore middle hitter BRITTANY EREZUMA (Kearny, NJ/Kearny) landed six kills.
Freshman outside hitter MARISSA SCARPA (Kearny, NJ/Kearny) finished with 12 digs and two aces and junior libero MICHELLE RAYO (Jersey City, NJ/County Prep) provided 10 digs and two aces.
NJCU had not won a set in league play all season, and it appeared that trend would not be reversed in the opening set with the Knights trailing 19-10. But an incredible diving dig by Dopico turned the momentum towards NJCU. Camden had 15 first-set kills and led 21-14 before the hosts slowly chipped away at the huge deficit. Back-to-back kills by Jordan and two R-C attack errors cut the deficit to 21-18. Latushko and Schmotzer traded kills for 22-19 and Miller served an ace for a 23-19 cushion. But a Raptor service error and two Camden attack errors—one after an NJCU zero block stayed in play. Tremendous defense by NJCU, including several highlight-reel digs kept the next rally going and Camden missed an attack, tying the set at 23-23. Jordan floored a kill for a 24-23 lead and Johanesen uncorked an ace as NJCU—scoring the final six points of the game—won the set, 25-23.
NJCU, which had 21 of its 35 total kills in the first two sets gained an early 7-5 lead and did not trail again in the second set. Back-to-back aces by Jordan made it 14-10 and Jordan followed with a kill for a 17-14 cushion. Schmotzer had a solo block and Johanesen, the most accurate server in NJCU program history, missed a serve for only the sixth time all year and the Raptors followed with an ace, tying the match at 19-19.
But once again NJCU showed late perseverance, scoring six of the final seven points to take the set, 25-20. After two Camden attack errors, Latushko’s kill made it 23-20 and the Raptors made a pair of miscues to close the set.
However, from there, NJCU would lead just once more in the final three sets as Camden began to mount its comeback. In the third set, the Raptors led 10-5 before an 8-1 run made it 18-6 and the visitors cruised to a 25-12 game decision. Crosby hit .714 with five kills and no errors in seven swings in the game and Koloski added a .667 percentage with four kills (4-0-6). NJCU could only muster two kills in the game.
NJCU led 2-0 in the fourth set before the Raptors scored eight of the next 10 points and didn’t trail again in the match. R-C led 15-10 after a Schmotzer winner. NJCU closed to 15-13, but the Raptors used five kills and a .444 attack rate by Koloski to claim a 24-18 lead. NJCU would not give in, scoring five consecutive points. Aces by Rayo sandwiched around a pair of Camden errors cut the deficit to 24-23. However, with a chance to tie the set at 24-24, Rayo served into the net for an error and the Raptors forced a fifth set, winning, 25-23. The Raptors tallied 17 kills in the set.
Both teams posted match-highs for hitting percentage in the final set. Camden hit .455 with 13 kills and only three errors in 22 swings. NJCU hit .308 without an error but only had 13 attack attempts and four winners. Camden, led by Crosby, who had a tremendous final set with seven kills and only one error in 11 attempts—a .545 percentage—grabbed an early 5-1 lead, extended the advantage to 10-4 and 14-8 before a Koloski winner sealed the game, 15-9.
NJCU will play a non-conference tri-match on Saturday, October 23 at the City College of New York. NJCU meets Clark University (MA) at 10 a.m. in a neutral court match before facing host CCNY at 2 p.m. Camden plays in a tri-match the same day at Cedar Crest College with Gwynedd-Mercy College at 1 and 3 p.m.
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