Volleyball Preview: Grambling State
2016 Finish: 7-18 (5-13 SWAC), lost in SWAC Volleyball Tournament Quarterfinals
Key Returners: RS Kevreion Ward, OH Chasity Nicks, MB Jaivienna Jones, MB Kitagbe Cisse, MB Desiree Bishop, S Diemend Richardson, S/DS L’Murriell Thrower
Key Losses: DS Alleeyah Hensley, RS Maya Lucas
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – After reaching the volleyball tournament for the first time since 2011 last season, Grambling State heads into 2017 with a sense of optimism as well as a more experienced core.
As virtually every key contributor to Coach Demetria Keys-Johnson’s 2016 group is back in the fold, the Lady Tigers expect to improve on last season’s quarterfinal finish. The entire attack unit – which was one of the younger groups in the SWAC last year – sans Maya Lucas projects to return, led by right side hitter Kevreion Ward, outside hitter Chasity Nicks, and middle blockers Jaivienna Jones, Desiree Bishop and Kitagbe Cisse.
Ward, a preseason second-team All-SWAC honoree, was the top attacker for Grambling last year, and the junior looks to improve on her 2016 totals of 193 kills, 114 digs and 49 blocks.
Nicks is fresh off a solid maiden campaign where she put home 186 kills and chipped in 162 digs. Jones and Cisse each had 102 kills each and combined for 75 blocks. Cisse is one of two key seniors on the team, with the other being Bishop, who looks to rebound off of an abbreviated 2016 campaign where she put up 39 kills and 30 blocks.
Diemend Richardson and L’Murriell Thrower project as the team’s top setters, as both posted more than 250 assists in 2016. It is likely that the duo could once again share the assist duties this year.
While Grambling is seemingly well-equipped to overcome the graduation of Lucas, a potential question mark for the team lies at libero, a spot that was vacated thanks to the graduation of Alleeyah Hensley. Hensley posted 312 digs last year, and it’s imperative for someone to emerge to stabilize the defense. Thrower could be a candidate for that as well as her setting ability.
The Lady Tigers open the 2017 campaign in the ISTAP Collegiate Cup I invitational hosted by Alabama State starting on Aug. 25.