Veteran Rottman steadies Cavaliers
Volleyball roster's lone senior provides savvy, quality from back line
One thing about the 2013 Virginia volleyball roster immediately stands out: of the 18 players listed, only one of them is a senior.
An outside hitter-turned-libero, Emily Rottman has been one of the only constants on the court for the Cavaliers throughout the past three-plus seasons. Players and even coaches have come and gone, but she’s stayed through it all. As a captain for the second year in a row, she uses her experience to lead the team both on and off the court.
“It’s not so much that there’s a vocal presence; it’s how she plays,” coach Dennis Hohenshelt said. “She knows how to play the game, so the girls sort of feed off that from her because they know she understands the game and is usually in the right spots. It’s very important for this group, especially the younger kids, to see how to play the game, and she can show them that.”
Her time at Virginia has taken her a long way from her home in Santa Barbara, Calif. She certainly would have been able to attend one of the many elite programs in-state, but she knew she wanted to go somewhere else and see something different, and Charlottesville seemed the perfect fit.
“From the first time I visited I just really loved the entire campus, and I thought the girls on the team were really welcoming and really fun,” Rottman said. “I was just ready for a new experience, so leaving California was definitely something I wanted to do.”
When she first arrived, she was part of a five-person recruiting class of 2010 that was rated the ninth-best in the country. Only two of those players now remain on the team: Rottman and junior Mallory Woolridge, who redshirted the 2012 season due to injury and will therefore have another year of eligibility after this one.
“It’s really weird coming in — we had five and now it’s just Mal and I,” Rottman said. “It’s kind of sad to lose those people, but Mal and I have stuck together. We’ve gotten closer because of it. It’s cool that her and I are just here leading the rest of the younger girls.”
After Rottman’s second year and halfway through her collegiate career, Lee Maes — the head coach that recruited her — resigned. Despite bringing in great recruiting classes, the team’s record steadily worsened under his watch. Enter former Penn State assistant Hohenshelt, who soon realized how lucky he was to already have a player of Rottman’s caliber on the team. Upon assuming control at Virginia, he approached her about a position change.
“She played some outside hitter, and that was sort of the one thing I told her when I got here, was, ‘you’re gonna play libero, because I need a strong libero and you’re gonna be that person,’” Hohenshelt said. “To me it was one of the most critical pieces for us to have.”
For Rottman, who had split time between libero and outside hitter during her first two seasons, becoming the libero full-time was fairly easy. She had already proven how good a defensive player she was, leading the 2011 squad in digs.
“Passing and defense have always been the two skills I was best at, so it’s been kind of nice to just focus on those two skills in my last two years here,” Rottman said. “I feel like those two skills are what I can help the team the most with.”
With her final season well underway, Rottman is playing the strongest volleyball of her career. She was named MVP at the Cavalier Classic two weekends ago and was selected to the All-Tournament Team at the Jefferson Cup earlier in September. On Sept. 21, she rose to fourth all-time for most career digs at Virginia.
Her sterling play this year will only make her departure after this season that much more difficult to stomach for the rest of the Cavaliers’ young roster.
“The team is going to miss a really good volleyball player [when she leaves],” Hohenshelt said. “When you look at it, probably the best all-around player we have. She’s going to be one of the best liberos that this program has ever seen or will ever see. I think that highly of her.”
Yet Rottman would rather be remembered for how she has approached the game as a Cavalier than for what she accomplished on the court.
“It’s kind of fun knowing that people will look up to me, and I’m always there for anybody,” Rottman said. “[The legacy I’d like to leave is] someone who really loves the sport of volleyball and enjoys being competitive and going out there and just wanting to win and have fun at the same time.”