Norfolk State Home Volleyball
|NSU vs. Howard||Wed., Nov. 2, 6 p.m.||Gill Gymnasium||Live Stats||Live Video|
NORFOLK, Va. – With only a few matches left in the regular season, the Norfolk State volleyball team will play its second straight contest against league-leading Howard when the Spartans host the Bison this Wednesday at Gill Gymnasium beginning at 6 p.m.
NSU is currently a half game ahead of Hampton for the fourth and final Northern Division spot in the MEAC tournament in several weeks. Howard has yet to lose in conference play and is the prohibitive favorite to repeat as conference champs.
The Spartans last played on Friday on the road in Washington, D.C., where the Bison swept them by a 3-0 score. NSU kept it close in sets 1 and 3 (25-21 and 25-20, respectively), while Howard pulled away for an easy 25-13 win in the middle set.
NSU currently owns a 4-5 MEAC record and a 6-17 overall mark. Howard stands 10-0 in conference play and 21-5 overall. The Spartans are trying to hold off Hampton (4-6) for the last tournament spot from the division. Only the top 4 in each division advance to the MEAC tournament. After Wednesday, NSU also plays Maryland Eastern Shore, while Hampton still has Delaware State on the docket.
NSU will host Hampton on Sunday in what is shaping up to be a winner-take-all match for that final tournament spot.
The Bison have been led by Khaila Donaldson, who tallies 4.00 kills per set to lead the MEAC. Donaldson also averages 2.38 digs, 0.59 blocks and 0.32 service aces per set. Courtney Dalton (2.24 kills) and Jessica Young (2.09 kills) also provide offense behind the direction of Tamia Dockery (9.78 assists). On defense, Morgan Marlbrough (4.12 digs) and Olubunmi Okunade (1.25 blocks) are two of the best players in the league at their position.
Jessica Johnson (3.77 kills, 1.91 digs) paces NSU on offense along with Dominique Parker (1.77 kills, 0.45 blocks) and Clarke Tyler(1.41 kills, team-leading 0.67 blocks). The latter two have helped anchor NSU’s improved blocking this year along with Lexi Brown(0.47). Also on defense, Melvina Brown (3.77 digs) and Alex Irizarry (1.78 digs) have been NSU’s key backrow defenders along with setter Jill Aquino (1.53 digs, 7.14 assists).
Rest of the Standings
Maryland Eastern Shore (8-2) has almost all but locked up second place, while Morgan State (6-4) has a strong hold on third place. After NSU and Hampton, Coppin State (2-9) and Delaware State (1-9) round out the standings.
In the South, Florida A&M (8-0) is rising up to be the top challenger to Howard later in the tournament. North Carolina A&T (5-1), Bethune-Cookman (5-3) and North Carolina Central (4-3) have locked up their tournament berths as well.
Johnson continues to maintain her second-place spot in the MEAC stats in kills per set at 3.77. She also ranks third in points (4.06).Melvina Brown stands fourth in digs (3.77) and ninth in service aces (0.32), while Aquino has slipped to sixth in assists at 7.14.
NSU ranks third in service aces as a team with 1.53 per set. The Spartans also sit 10th in blocks (1.33). In every other category, NSU either ranks sixth (opponent hitting percentage, .208) or seventh (hitting percentage, .116; kills, 9.68; assists, 8.88; digs, 12.10).
Now with 959 career kills, Johnson is inching ever-so closer to the 1,000-plateau. She would become just the second NSU player ever to reach that mark. She already has 305 kills this year, sixth in NSU season records, and needs just three more to jump to fourth.
Howard has won seven in a row over NSU to extend its all-time series lead to 17-5. A victory by the Bison on Wednesday would give them a series sweep each of the last four years.
NSU closes out the regular season at Maryland Eastern Shore on Friday and then hosts Hampton on Sunday for Senior Day in Gill Gym beginning at 3 p.m.
Originally published at nsuspartans.com