Volleyball Preview: Mississippi Valley State
2016 Finish: 3-26 (1-17 SWAC), Did not qualify for SWAC Volleyball Tournament
Key Returners: L Kalin Barnes, MH Brianna Watkins, S Jaime Polk
Key Losses: MH Cynthia Richardson, S Brooklyn Hudson, OH Megan Jones, L Sydney Robinson
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Mississippi Valley hopes to show some progress in 2017, despite having to replace a few key pieces to the puzzle.
In order for Coach Douglas Hunter’s group to avoid a season similar to 2016, new faces will have to immediately pay dividends alongside the returning impact players of the Devilettes’ program.
Perhaps Mississippi Valley’s most significant loss is Cynthia Richardson, who was the team’s lone senior in 2016. Richardson posted 167 kills and a team-high 51 blocks in her final year. Other key departures include Brooklyn Hudson (442 assists in ‘16), Sydney Robinson (281 digs in ‘16) Megan Jones (85 kills in ‘16) and Marissa Chalmers (83 kills in ‘16)
In Kalin Barnes, however, the Devilettes have a cornerstone to build around. Barnes was impressive on both ends of the court last year as she slammed a team-best 222 kills and chipped in 242 digs, good for second-most on the team.
Senior Brianna Watkins – who posted 39 digs, 38 kills and 18 blocks in 2016 – will be called upon to lift her game to a new level from the season prior in order to not only fortify the middle of the MVSU lineup, but to also provide a second go-to attacker alongside Barnes. At setter, Jamie Polk stands out as the most viable option at the slot, evidenced by her 141 assists last season.
On the backend, Victoria Hicks and Octavia Burrage – who played sparingly last season – are the top candidates to slide in at libero. A potential problem area for the Devilettes could be net defense. Richardson accounted for half of the team’s total blocks (51 of 94), and Mississippi Valley is one of the smaller teams in the league up front.
The Devilettes open the 2017 campaign on Aug. 29 when they head to Dillard University.