Charlotte's volleyball has seen success in recent years. The 49ers are 7-7 in 2021 and went 13-5 in the 2020-21 spring season.
A large part of that success comes from fifth-year senior Sydney Rowan. However, Charlotte's academics played a major role in the 49ers developing the star outside hitter.
"Academics first and foremost, I wanted to go into engineering, and so that kinda limited the options down, so when I was looking at schools, I really wanted a good academic program, and then I wanted a big school, so I was kinda looking around. I ended up coming to camp here, and once I was on campus, I really fell in love with it," said Rowan on choosing the 49ers. "The coaches came up to me and were like, 'we really want you to consider Charlotte,' and that's kinda how it came to be."
Rowan holds an impressive 3.973 GPA while majoring in Charlotte's systems engineering program. When picking a college, she knew she wanted to go into a good engineering program, limiting school options for her. This put Charlotte high on her radar, and then they were able to add her to the roster when they recruited her at a camp.
The coaching staff has counted their blessing of landing Rowan here at Charlotte and building the program, with her being a major building block in that process.
"I would say [Sydney's] high character, incredible work ethic, massive competitiveness, and intelligence for the game. That's the foundation that she started with and brought here," said Head Coach Karen Weatherington.
Rowan always led during her time with the Niners starting when she first stepped out onto the court in 2017. But in her fifth year, she has to take on even more of the leadership responsibility, and she has embraced it, being a very vocal leader on and off the court willing to tell the team exactly what needs to be said to help them improve.
"I am the only fifth-year, so kinda naturally just age-wise, the leadership role is kinda upon me, but I think also having been here the longest that helps, and I feel like the girls really respect that I have been here also," said Rowan. "I think I've taken a leadership role since my freshman year, but definitely now, as the oldest, I have a larger one."
In her five years in the Queen City, she has collected many accolades and has been very successful. This season, Rowan joined the elite 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs club. She got her 1,000th kill on Jan. 30, 2020, when the 49ers took on Clemson. She joined the club on Sep. 4 in the third set when she got her 1,000th dig against Chicago State. She became only the 8th Charlotte 49er to join this elite club.
"I'm honored it was a really big deal for me. I was pretty excited about it, just because it is pretty rare," said Rowan. "I'm just super thankful for this opportunity. Even with Covid and everything to be able to come back and play, it's been a really big deal to me."
This is just one of the many accolades she has accomplished over the years at Charlotte.
In 2017, during her freshman year, Rowan made the Conference USA (C-USA) All-Freshman team. She was also named C-USA player of the week twice. In addition, she earned two all-tournament honors. The first was in her first collegiate week at the Charlotte Invitational, and the second was at the George Mason Classic.
After her successful rookie season, she had picked up right where she left off, getting 51 kills and 43 digs in the first four games played during the Charlotte Invitational in her sophomore season. But her season got derailed when she caught mono and had to spend significant time battling back from that during the 2018 season.
In 2019, she bounced back in stellar fashion from her illness-driven season. She was named to the C-USA Second Team and named to the NCCSIA All-State First Team. In that season, she was also named to the Charlotte Invitational and the Hokie Invitational All-Tournament teams.
Rowan was still named to the C-USA preseason in the 2020-21 season, having an extended offseason due to the coronavirus. After her spectacular play on the season, she was named to the C-USA All-Conference Second Team. But she shined not only on the court but also in the classroom, getting her to put on the C-USA All-Academic Team. Rowan also set history with her academic accomplishments being the first Charlotte volleyball player to be named C-USA Scholar Athlete of the Year for volleyball.
Due to the extra year of eligibility granted due to Covid-19 Rowan is already racking in accomplishments during her final season with the Niners. Having already been named to the All-Tournament team for the Charlotte Invitational, she also racked up an MVP award for her play in the Windy City Classic back in early September.
Rowan has cemented herself a great legacy in Niners volleyball history.
"Sydney has meant the world to this program. She has been the cornerstone that we have built today's foundation of Charlotte volleyball," said Weatherington. "She came here and we felt we got lucky and blessed when she picked us for the engineering program. Because she had so many intangible talents she was bringing a lot to the table that you don't usually see as a freshman."