HBCU Sports: Volleyball Preview: Alabama State

2016 Finish: 24-9 (18-0 SWAC), won SWAC Volleyball Tournament
Key Returners: MB Briana Dorsey, OH Bayle’ Bennett, OH Ni’yesha Brown, OH Krysta Medearis, S Justus Tuiolosega, S/DS Kori Kutsch, MB Candace Martin
Key Losses: DS/L Jamie Coleman

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – On the heels of their third Southwestern Athletic Conference volleyball championship in four years, the Alabama State Lady Hornets enter 2017 poised to remain a top contender in the league.

Coach Penny Lucas-White returns a nearly full cupboard from last season’s squad, which put together an undefeated ledger in conference play. The Lady Hornets should once again field one of, if not the, deepest attacking corps in the SWAC.

Anchoring the front line is senior Briana Dorsey, who posted a team-high 288 kills at a sparkling .411 attack percentage clip while adding 93 blocks. Dorsey figures to slide into the role of leader for the defending champions, and fellow senior Candace Martin (124 K, 79 blocks) should help fortify the middle of the Hornets’ frontline as well.

On the outside, senior Ni’yesha Brown (274 K in 2016), fresh off winning the Newcomer of the Year spearheads a hydra of an attack for the Lady Hornets, with sophomores Bayle’ Bennett (255 K) and Krysta Medearis (232 K) — the latter of whom doubles as a presence in the middle — also projecting to be difference makers for Alabama State as they were last season.

Facilitating the offense will be 2016 Setter of the Year Justus Tuiolosega (595 assists, 49 aces) alongside Kori Kutsch (454 assists, 26 aces).

The lone question for Lucas-White’s group to answer is how to fill the role of libero, now vacated after the graduation of 2016 Libero of the Year Jamie Coleman. Kayla Torres appears to be the likely successor to the position, but Kutsch and Asha Daniels are two names that may help shoulder the load.

Alabama State opens the season against North Carolina A&T on Aug. 25, as the Lady Hornets host the ISTAP Collegiate Cup I event.