NORFOLK, Va. – The fourth and final tournament spot from the MEAC Northern Division will be decided on Sunday when the Norfolk State and Hampton volleyball teams close out the regular season at NSU’s Gill Gymnasium. The match will also serve as Senior Day for five Spartan players. First serve is set for 3 p.m.
Norfolk State will honor four seniors and one redshirt junior on Sunday in their last home match of their careers. Fifth-year senior Jessica Johnson joins fellow seniors Dominique Parker, Alex Irizarry and Sydney Dailey as well as redshirt junior Uwem Etuk in saying their goodbyes to their final home crowd.
There will also be much at stake after celebrating the seniors. The winner between NSU and Hampton will advance to the MEAC tournament set for Nov. 18-20 at Maryland Eastern Shore. By virtue of a win, the Pirates would finish ahead of the Spartans in the standings. A win for NSU would give the two programs the same conference record, although the Spartans would earn the tiebreaker due to their season sweep of Hampton.
NSU enters the match carrying a 4-7 MEAC record as well as a 6-19 overall mark. After Friday’s win over Delaware State, Hampton improved to 5-6 in the conference and 6-16 overall. The Spartans are looking to make it a sweep of the Pirates after pulling out a 3-2 win in mid-October at HU’s Holland Hall in the first matchup this year between the two programs.
Should the Spartans win, they would face the No. 1 seed from the Southern Division, Florida A&M, at 4 p.m. on Nov. 18 in the third game of the day of the first round of the MEAC tournament. A loss to Hampton would close out NSU’s 2016 campaign.
Hampton won 3-0 at Delaware State on Friday, including a dominating 25-9 second-set victory. Reeana Richardson (3.00 kills per set) and Micah Leavell (2.73) have been the offensive catalysts for the Pirates. The duo combined for 52 kills in the first match this year against NSU. Kyndall Nicholas ranks fourth on the team with 1.41 kills and leads the way with 0.81 blocks. Summer Humes tallies a team-best 2.30 digs for a team that only averages 9.60 per set and also allows 2.24 service aces.
NSU is one of the better teams in the league in aces per set (1.51), with six different players tallying at least 13 on the year. On offense, Johnson has more than twice as many kills per set (3.67) as the team’s No. 2 player, Dominique Parker (1.78). Junior Clarke Tyler is third with 1.39 kills to go along with a team-best 0.65 blocks. Johnson is also second on the team in digs (1.95) to junior Melvina Brown (3.74).
Johnson is the last remaining member of the 2012 team that finished as the best ever in the school’s Division I history. The fifth-year senior ranks second all-time at NSU with 977 kills and is on pace to set the school record for kills per set in a season at 3.67. She also owns season (929) and career records (2,798) for attacks. She is also eighth in career matches played (104), ninth in sets played (367) and 10th in digs (609). She has also been a regular member of the MEAC All-Academic Team and the AD’s Honor Roll.
Another regular member of the MEAC All-Academic Team and the AD’s Honor Roll, Parker ranks 15th in career matches played (85) and owns totals of 389 kills on a .149 attack percentage with 116 blocks, 59 digs, 26 aces and 12 assists. She is also in the midst of a career year with all-time highs of 155 kills and 40 blocks so far this season. She set a career high with 14 kills in a win over North Carolina A&T earlier this year.
Irizarry, another four-year player like Parker, has helped anchor the backcourt defense during her time with the Spartans. She stands 11th in career digs at NSU with 596, 12th in assists (271) and 15th in sets played (343). She has also tallied 64 service aces during her career. She set career highs with 20 assists in a match her sophomore year and 20 digs in a match her junior season. And like the first two, Irizarry has also been a member of the AD’s Honor Roll and the MEAC All-Academic Team.
Dailey is also having the best season of her career with 100 kills and 108 digs. She has also set career highs this year for kills (10), digs (21), blocks (four) and service aces (three) in a match. She has competed in 74 career matches over her four years at NSU and 201 total sets with 226 digs, 172 kills, 39 blocks, 18 aces and 12 assists. Dailey too has been a regular member of the AD’s Honor Roll and the MEAC All-Academic Team.
Etuk walked on to the team in 2013 but did not see any playing time her first two years. She competed in 16 matches last year as well as 15 this year. During her two years on the court, she has played in 49 sets with 18 kills, 10 blocks and three digs. She too has earned spots on the AD’s Honor Roll and the MEAC All-Academic Team in addition to being a member of the NSU Honors College.
Howard finished the regular season with a 12-0 record to earn the top spot in the Northern Division. Maryland Eastern Shore owns a 9-2 record and will finish second regardless of Sunday’s result with Delaware State. Morgan State has also earned its spot in the tournament with a current 6-5 record. Coppin State (2-9) and Delaware State (1-10) will see their seasons come to a close on Sunday.
In the South, Florida A&M (9-0) has the top spot locked down. North Carolina A&T (6-2) and Bethune-Cookman (6-3) are battling for the second and third spots, while North Carolina Central (4-4) is on pace to finish fourth. Savannah State (1-8) and South Carolina State (0-9) will not advance to the tournament.
Johnson Inching Closer
With 977 career kills now, Johnson needs only 23 more to reach 1,000 for her career. Her career high for a single match is 22, set twice earlier this season.
Heading into the last set of matches in the league, Johnson currently ranks second in kills per set at 3.67 as well as fourth in points at 3.94. In addition, Brown stands fifth in digs (3.74) and ninth in service aces (0.32), while Jill Aquino is now sixth in assists at 7.07 per set.
NSU still sits third in the league as a team in aces (1.51). The Spartans also find themselves sixth in opponent hitting percentage (.214), seventh in hitting percentage (.117) and kills (9.61), eighth in assists (8.81) and digs (12.05) and ninth in blocks (1.36).
Despite the loss earlier this year, Hampton still leads the all-time series 48-12, which does not include a pair of vacated NSU wins from 2009. The Spartans have now won two in a row over Hampton after the Pirates had taken the previous five meetings.
Originally published at nsuspartans.com