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First-Place RCC Volleyball Team Gearing Up for Postseason

First-Place RCC Volleyball Team Gearing Up for Postseason

The RCC volleyball team is a contender for both conference and Region championships.

DATE: October 16, 2017

Hawks already have more wins this season than in 2016

RAMAPO – With 13 wins in 16 matches, the Rockland Community College volleyball team is already enjoying one of its finest seasons ever. Now the Hawks hope to cap off their season by making some history.

With a win over Ulster on October 10, RCC moved into a tie for first place in the Mid-Hudson Conference. The Hawks also hold the tie-breaker, meaning if the two teams finish tied for first, Rockland will host the conference championships, a one-day event on Tuesday, October 24.

A conference title would be a big deal for RCC, which has only won the MHC volleyball crown three times in school history, the last coming in 2004. It would also serve as a superb prelude to the Region XV tournament later the same week, in which the Hawks will be seeking their first-ever Region championship.

Much was expected of the Rockland team this season, with conference MVP Shannon Thomas and others returning, along with some key new recruits. But RCC suffered a big loss after just two matches, with a season-ending injury to talented newcomer Anjali Sebastian (Clarkstown North HS). And with coach Erik Ellingsen’s wife giving birth early in the season, he has been unable to attend a number of practices and matches.

Instead of falling apart, the Hawks pulled together. Ellingsen credits his three returning starters—North Rockland HS alums Thomas and Nicole Polanco, and Suffern HS grad Sara Hayward—saying they have served as de facto coaches for the team in his absence. He says Polanco has especially proven herself as a leader for the squad. RCC will honor those three players at a Senior Night celebration at the team’s final regular-season home game, Thursday, October 19 at 7 pm.

Thomas has followed up her impressive first season by playing even better this year. She ranks among the national leaders in NJCAA Division III in multiple categories, including fourth in hitting percentage and tenth in points per set. “She’s a force on the court,” says Ellingsen.

Another crucial factor has been the addition of first-year player Kayla Oge. Ranking fourth in the nation in blocks per set, Oge has given RCC a second dominating presence at the net. With the New City resident, a graduate of Saddle River Day School in New Jersey, on the court, Ellingsen says, “Defensively we got a lot better and we’re more athletic as well.”

Other first-year players contributing to RCC’s success are North Rockland HS grad Emily Schmidt and Nyack HS alumna Cha-Neice Gordon. The Hawks are likely to earn a first-round home match in the Region XV tournament, which would take place on Thursday, October 26. A victory would send them to the Region final four at SUNY Orange two days later.

While Rockland lost to defending champion Queensborough and perennial power Nassau earlier this season, Ellingsen believes in his team’s chances. “If they stay focused every point of every set, we could win the Region,” he says. “The tournament’s going to be a lot of fun.”