Sept. 7, 2010
By ALEX PODLOGAR
FAYETTEVILLE, NC - Some things are written in stone. They seem to happen without fail. You know the old line - there are only two sure things in life: death and taxes.
Perhaps, though, there is another sure thing. Certainly, there is a trend developing, if nothing else. And that is the fact that when it comes to volleyball, the Fayetteville State Broncos are likely going to be a CIAA contender.
The Broncos will begin another run at a potential CIAA championship when they take the court against Johnson C. Smith at 6 p.m. on Wednesday at Felton J. Capel Arena in Fayetteville, NC.
The Broncos have played in the championship game in each of the last three seasons, last winning the title in 2007. And while three-time CIAA Player of the Year Chekimbrell Jefferson has moved on after another stellar senior season at FSU, head coach Rasheemah Johnson is bent on making sure the Broncos retain their lofty status in the league's upper echelon.
"We have a legacy," Johnson says. "We've been doing well since 1996, and we seem to always be able to field a competitive team. The good thing is that the standard in the CIAA has gone up, and we have been improving along with the rising standard of the CIAA."
Fayetteville State returns just two seniors this season, but they are standout players. Setter Achari Mainor (Antioch, CA) and outside hitter Samantha Meeks (Laurinburg, NC) are two All-CIAA selections who anchor two critical positions for the Broncos. Adding to the team's core of experience are junior transfers Jasmine Stewart and Keisha Edwards.
That leadership is crucial for a Broncos team that features three sophomores, including 6-foot-3 outside hitter and middle blocker Joi Emanuel (Charlotte, NC), and a total of eight freshmen.
"We have a promising group returning," Johnson says. "This year I feel pretty good (about our prospects for a successful season.) "We have a pretty young team with eight freshmen, but we're looking for my returning players to lead the way with their experience, and to pull those freshmen along.
"I think we have a very talented pool of freshmen who can make an immediate impact."
Like many coaches, Johnson's philosophy angles toward progression as a team throughout the season, with the hope of peaking at the precise time - the start of the league tournament. In 2009, the Broncos lost their first four matches of the season before closing the year by winning 14 of their final 16 matches. Considering their ample youth, the same kind of plan would certainly suffice for 2010.
And if recent history is any indication, the Broncos will be just fine and playing important matches by the time November rolls around.