New head volleyball coach Jody Rogers is finding herself more and more comfortable with her new team every day. And why shouldn’t she? She has led the Rams to an impressive 17-5 start, which includes a recent seven-game winning streak and a 5-1 record in conference play.
A 3-0 victory against Norfolk State on Tuesday, Oct. 8 gave VCU volleyball its third sweep in four matches and helped propel the Lady Rams to first place in the Atlantic 10 standings.
But these results are not completely unfounded. In her 16 seasons at the University of Indianapolis, Rogers captured 406 wins and earned a trip to the Division II Final Four in 2012 before accepting the job at VCU.
Rogers said she has a drive and will to win that started at a young age. Growing up in Newton, Mass. Rogers would always compete against her sister Wendy, who stood out as a basketball player in high school, and went on to lead Eastern Connecticut State University to two Division III Final Four appearances. Her sister’s success in basketball helped steer Rogers toward volleyball.
“My sister was so great at basketball, I was like, I need to do something I’m better than her at,” Rogers said. “We just pushed each other and I think that’s why we got into our own niche and mine happened to be volleyball.”
Rogers said she never let a challenge slow her down, but she always played with a chip on her shoulder. At 5-foot-6, Rogers was not the typical build for the middle blocker position but she was athletic and used doubt as fuel for the fire to succeed — a mentality she has continued to use as a coach.
On the recruiting trail, Rogers looks at a player’s drive and will to win as much as a player’s stats and physical attributes.
“It’s nice to get a kid who’s 6-foot-3 and hits outside,” Rogers said. “But we want the kid that hates to lose, is really competitive and works hard, and that’s kind of what I stand for.”
All the hard work paid off for Rogers as a player, leaving New England for Miami Dade Junior College to compete as an outside hitter. Despite being overlooked as an undersized player for that position, Rogers and her team captured a championship in 1989. Afterward, she decided to return home to play for Eastern Connecticut State and finish her college career.
A few coaching opportunities went well, including a stint at Newbury College, before Rogers took a leap of faith and applied for the head coaching job at the University of Indianapolis.
After accepting the job, Rogers would look to improve on a program that went 7-26 in the previous season. But the drive and motivation that has been a staple throughout her entire life was evident, and she led the greyhounds to 20-plus wins in only her third season as head coach.
She spent 16 years at U.Indy before accepting a job to take over the rising VCU program. Upon arriving this summer, Rogers says all she asked from her new players was a chance to show them she would do anything and everything to help them succeed. In return they would have to work hard and go above and beyond what was expected of them before. So far, her team has responded.
Among hard-fought, key A-10 victories, VCU has a come-from-behind to defeat Duquesne and has already notched two wins against preseason favorite and four-time defending A-10 champion Dayton.
Rogers brings a fiery and positive attitude to every aspect of her program, pushing her team in the right direction to accomplish their goals – including the A-10 championship.
She is a straight shooter, with every intention of helping her players succeed not only in volleyball, but in life.
“It’s always in the approach with players,” Rogers said. “I’m gonna tell you the truth.”
The success of the Rams so far this year comes from the perfect storm of Rogers’ system combined with the talent and fight her players have shown.
As the A-10 season continues, Rogers knows that, with the skill her team possesses and the confidence they have gained, they will continue to be a force in the A-10 this year and beyond.
“These girls believe they can climb Mount Everest right now, so I’m just gonna roll with it,” she said.
VCU’s 3-2 victory over George Mason this past Friday stretched their streak to seven consecutive victories before the George Washington Colonials topped the Rams in a fifth set tiebreaker on Saturday.
The GMU Patriots will get a second shot at VCU this Friday, Oct. 18 as the Rams open a three-game home stretch that will help determine whether or not coach Rogers’ team finishes the season as A-10 champs.
Saint Louis and William & Mary will also be in town to test VCU on Oct. 19 and Oct. 22 respectively.
VCU currently holds a half-game lead over Duquesne in the conference standings.