Nov. 8, 2007
Correspondent for the Fayetteville Observer
Fayetteville State freshman Samantha Meeks has a prediction for the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association volleyball tournament, which begins Thursday in Charlotte.
"Oh, we're going to win the CIAA," she said.
Meeks has reason to be confident. With a win last Thursday over Livingstone College, FSU improved to 21-11 overall and 14-0 in the conference.
Coach Elorine Hill, who recently recorded her 300th win, is eager to add to her trophy collection. She's already won one CIAA championship this year as coach of the tennis team.
"I'll be highly disappointed if we don't come away with the championship," Hill said. "I have confidence in my players that we'll get the job done because we've been talking about that all season."
This year's FSU team is a young group of players who have jelled since the start of the season.
Leading the Broncos are Meeks and fellow freshman Achari Mainor, along with sophomore Chekimbrell Jefferson.
Meeks and Jefferson are both graduates of Scotland County High School.
Jefferson, a 2004 Scotland graduate, spent a year at East Carolina before transferring to Fayetteville State. She was named CIAA player of the year last week.
"Her high school coach (David Barnes) called me and said that she was looking at our program and asked if we could have a tryout," Hill said. "Chekimbrell is one of the most talented players we've had. I was elated to have her."
Said Jefferson: "Everyone here is really team-oriented. That's what drew me to the program."
After just one year with the program, Jefferson is already the school's all-time leader in kills with 379. She broke the old mark of 375 kills in her final regular-season game Thursday.
Meeks is a 2007 graduate of Scotland and shared player of the year honors in the Mid-Southeastern Conference with Jack Britt's Mallarie Murphy last season.
Meeks now provides the second half of the Broncos' one-two punch at the net. The freshman is second on the team in scoring with 245 kills this season.
"We have a really good connection on the court," Jefferson said.
"Kim's just an amazing athlete altogether," Meeks said. "We lift each other up."
Jefferson and Meeks have Mainor to thank for most of those kills. The freshman setter leads the CIAA with 1,033 assists this season.
"She had never set," Hill says of Mainor. "I had to train her at setter this season, and now she leads the conference."
Now that the tournament is coming, the Broncos see Elizabeth City State as the biggest threat to their title dreams.
Elizabeth City State leads the Eastern Division of the CIAA with an 8-0 record. The Vikings are 12-1 in the conference.
"I am worried about Elizabeth City," Hill said. "They match up pretty well with us."
The Broncos defeated Elizabeth City on Sept. 16 in the CIAA East-West Roundup but dropped a game to the Vikings in their 3-1 win. It's one of two games the Broncos have lost to CIAA opponents this season.
Long journey for coach
Hill has learned a lot about volleyball in the 19 years since she became FSU's coach.
A native of Jamaica, Hill had no experience coaching volleyball when she took over the program.
"I was coaching cross country at the time," Hill said. "Our incoming athletic director asked me if I could coach volleyball. I said, `Ok, I'll give it a try.'"
Hill came to the United States as a track and field athlete. After a successful track career, including time at Saint Augustine's, Hill began coaching cross country in 1988 for the Broncos but made the switch to volleyball in 1989.
She has since coached the Broncos to two CIAA championships, capturing the title in 1996 and 1998.
Hill coached the Broncos tennis team to a perfect conference record and CIAA championship in April.
She recorded her 300th career win as the Broncos' volleyball coach Oct. 30. She is the first coach in Fayetteville State volleyball history to reach the mark.
"It's a humbling experience for me," Hill said. "I certainly attribute that to all the athletes that I've brought in. I really had some good athletes come in this year and buy into the program."