MEAC / Spartan Women / Sports

NSU Volleyball enters key weekend against Coppin State, Morgan State

rp_primary_alex_irizarry_vs_navyNORFOLK, Va. – The Norfolk State volleyball program will host a pair of conference foes this weekend in what is shaping up to be the team’s most important stretch yet this year. The Spartans will take on Coppin State on Friday at 6 p.m., followed by Morgan State on Sunday at 3 p.m.

Both matches will be played at NSU’s Gill Gymnasium. The athletics department will have live stats and a live video feed available. The video feed carries a cost of $5 per contest.

The Spartans enter the weekend on a three-match winning streak, their longest since 2012, that has bumped their record to 6-13 overall and 4-2 in conference play. With a sweep, NSU could put even more distance between it and fifth-place Hampton for the final Northern Division spot in the conference tournament. Even a split this weekend would move NSU ever so closer to locking up a bid.

To do that, the Spartans will have to first get by Coppin State, a team NSU already beat on the road earlier this year in five sets. The Eagles stand 1-6 in conference play and 1-20 overall, having defeated winless Delaware State a week and a half ago. Sunday’s match, meanwhile, will pit two teams with identical (for now) 4-2 MEAC records against each other. The winner will have a slight edge for third place in the division, although the Bears (4-17 overall) already defeated the Spartans earlier this year.

Howard (6-0) and Maryland Eastern Shore (6-1) have led the way in the Northern Division this year. After MSU and NSU, Hampton (2-5), Coppin State and Delaware State (0-7) round out the standings. Only the top four in the division advance to the conference tournament in November.

Morgan State has been led by the threesome of Natashia Barker (2.65 kills per set), Keana Browne (2.29) and Haley McClure (2.13). Jasmin Hubbard has a team-best 190 digs this year, and Browne is tops in blocks with 39. MSU is averaging just one service ace per set and only 1.16 blocks, although the Bears do rank sixth in the league in digs per set at 12.07.

Coppin State has been led by Bailee Jackson, who tallies 2.79 kills per set. Teammate Guro Froberg chips in with 2.25 kills, while on defense the duo of Glorines Rosado (3.85 digs) and Kennedy Curtis (0.63 blocks) do the heaviest lifting. Like MSU, Coppin State’s best category in the league is digs, where the Eagles rank third with an average of 13.63 per set.

As for NSU, senior Dominique Parker (1.84 kills) and junior Clarke Tyler (1.46 kills) have increased their production the last few matches to complement senior Jessica Johnson (3.78 kills). All three players have posted career highs for kills in a match at some point during the last three contests. Tyler has also bumped up her block numbers, and she currently averages 0.68 to go along with Parker’s 0.50 blocks per set average. Junior Melvina Brown tallies 3.98 digs, more than twice as many as any other player. She also leads the way with 0.40 service aces, and Jill Aquino has bumped her per set average for assists to 7.32 in her freshman campaign.

MEAC Leaders
After last weekend, NSU made two more appearances in the MEAC rankings. Brown jumped all the way to fifth in service aces at 0.40 after tallying six last Friday. Tyler, meanwhile, now ranks 10th in blocks at 0.68 after a recent surge by the junior.

Johnson still ranks second in kills at 3.78 and second in points at 4.06, behind Howard’s Khaila Donaldson in both categories. Brown sits fourth in digs at 3.98 per set, while Aquino finds herself in fifth in assists at 7.32.

As a team, the Spartans have moved up to third in the 13-team MEAC in service aces at 1.65 per set. They also rank fifth in digs (12.12), sixth in opponent hitting percentage (.218) and assists (8.97), seventh in kills (9.83) and hitting percentage (.122), and ninth in blocks (1.31).

National Leaderboard
Johnson ranks 61st in the nation (and first in the league) in attacks per set at 10.55. She also stands 73rd nationally in kills per set (3.78) and 110th in points per set (4.06). Brown, meanwhile, ranks 57th in aces per set (0.40).

NSU ranks 23rd in the nation in aces per set at 1.65.

Around the League
Hampton will host Morgan State on Thursday and Coppin State on Sunday as those latter two schools make the two-match swing through the Hampton Roads area against both HU and NSU.

Howard, meanwhile, will get one of its strongest tests in the league on Friday when the Bison travel to MDES, a team Howard has already beaten this year. The Bison also host Delaware State on Sunday. Ironically, in six matches so far this year in league play, Howard has dropped just one set, to last place DSU.

Where You Stand
With 13 kills at Delaware State, Johnson now has an even 900 for her career. She already ranks third all-time at NSU and needs 38 more to move past Kim Mumford for second place. With a dynamic close to the regular season, Johnson could also join Charlotte Armstead as the only players with 1,000 career kills in a Spartan uniform.

She already ranks second in career attacks (2,555) and is now less than 200 from surpassing Armstead’s total of 2,712.

Smokin’ Aces
NSU has 50 service aces the last five matches after tallying 57 in the first 14 matches of the season. Brown has 17 of those 50 aces. Tyler has had 10 during that time, while Aquino and senior Alex Irizarry have each had a match with four aces apiece.

In addition, the Spartans have posted 43 blocks the last six matches after having 42 in the first 13 contests this year. Tyler has been a big part of that with 26 blocks during that six-match streak, averaging slightly more than a block per set.

Tyler has also posted 60 kills over her last seven matches, averaging 2.22 per set. Parker, meanwhile, has averaged 2.04 kills per set during the last six matches, which includes totals of 11, 13 and 14 in three of those contests.

Series History
The 3-2 victory earlier this year over Coppin State improved NSU’s record to 12-14 against the Eagles and broke CSU’s five-match win streak in the series. The Bears, meanwhile, now stand 19-6 all-time against the Spartans after their win over NSU earlier this year, their third in a row against the Spartans.

Up Next
The Spartans will play at VCU next Tuesday for their last non-conference matchup of the year before heading to Howard on Oct. 28.
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