Discussing the odds pertains to the likelihood or chances of a favorable outcome. The 2015 Fayetteville State University women’s volleyball team has been voted to finish second in the CIAA Southern Division, based on the conference preseason predictions. FSU ended the 2014 season with an overall record of 18-9, a 14-2 mark in the CIAA, the Southern Division crown, and a third consecutive trip to the conference championship match. Despite these impressive accolades, the New Year brings new challenges which have drastically shifted the odds against the Lady Broncos.
Six members of last year’s squad will not return, including four starters. Maintaining a clean bill of health has been a constant obstacle for the Lady Broncos. Competition within the CIAA remains fierce. The defending conference champion Chowan Hawks have been projected to repeat and voted first in the preseason poll. Divisional rival Winston-Salem State returns a seasoned roster and has been picked first in the Southern. Both Chowan and Winston-Salem State had multiple student-athletes on this year’s All-CIAA Preseason Team.
“I’m not too concerned with projections or preseason talk; the matches still have to be played,” said seventh year head volleyball coach Reeshemah Johnson.
Johnson has led FSU to four conference championship appearances, won two CIAA Championships (2012, 2013), and accumulated over 120 career victories. She has been named conference coach of the year on two occasions, including last year.
“I’m concerned with the development of our team this year. We have a small team and we’re always focusing on staying healthy.”
Fayetteville State does have six returners. Three Lady Broncos were All-CIAA preseason selections. Junior outside hitter Samira Luis (Willemstad, Curacao) earned all-conference first team honors at the conclusion of last season. She has also been selected to the preseason team this year.
Luis led FSU in kills (249) and ranked second on the team in digs (236). She finished eighth in the CIAA for kills per set (2.88).
“Samira has always been strong for us, but she’s had to rehab from an injury,” said Johnson. “We’re taking things slow and being cautious with her workload early on.”
In addition to Luis, senior middle blocker Ashley Britton (Woodbridge, VA) and sophomore middle hitter Jayde Jacobs (Fayetteville, NC) also enter this season as highlighted returners. Both concluded last season with conference accolades and received spots on the All-CIAA Preseason Team this year.
Britton garnered second team all-conference honors last season. She led the CIAA in blocks per set (1.11). Britton tallied 96 blocks for FSU last year. She totaled 150.5 points, including 99 kills.
Jacobs earned one of the six slots on the CIAA All-Rookie Team last season. She finished fourth on the team in kills (155), third in blocks (68), and second in service aces (28).
“One thing that does play into our favor is our experience,” stated Johnson. “We’re looking towards our experienced student-athletes to help the team gel, so we have the ability to execute as a unit.
Senior outside hitter Shavon Shaw (Bethel, NC) returns with rich, championship experience. She has been a vital contributor to all three teams that appeared in the CIAA Championship. Shaw had 170 kills, 174 digs, 25 blocks, and 23 service aces last season.
“Jessica and Nikita have been with our program the longest, but have never played together,” exclaimed Johnson. “Between injuries and off the court matters, this season presents the first opportunity for them to be on the court at the same time.
Fayetteville State has 29 matches slated with a heavy road schedule. FSU only has seven matches scheduled at home. The Lady Broncos open the season on September 4th against Glenville State University in the Lady Falcons Challenge hosted by Saint Augustine’s University.
FSU will play 14 matches and open conference competition before playing their first home match. “It’s really just the nature of the scheduling, we played more matches at home than away last year,” mentioned Johnson. “It will be good for us to get some matches under our belts before we play at home. When we play in Capel, we look to be at our very best.”
The Lady Broncos will host divisional rival Livingstone College on September 29th at 6:00 p.m. inside Felton J. Capel Arena.
The odds suggest that the window of success for Fayetteville State maybe closing. Competition in the CIAA has increased, injuries have been a nagging affliction, and building team chemistry amongst a depleted roster will be a test.
“We’re aware of the odds against us, but we won’t allow that to affect our focus,” declared Johnson. “Every year our goal is to win the CIAA Championship, compete in regionals, and be a real contender. Each year we want to get to regionals and go further and further.”
Well, ignore the predictions, probabilities, likelihoods, and unfavorable factors. Regardless of the odds, the Lady Broncos are overlooking the obstacles and pressing towards a position of power in Division II volleyball.
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