Lady Bears Fight Off Crosstown Rivals

By Benjamin McKnight III

The Lady Bears were riding a two match winning streak. Their last home appearance was their annual Orange & Blue scrimmage the weekend before the semester began. A month of constant traveling for early-season tournaments had the Morgan State volleyball team searching for consistency, hoping that a strong home debut against the rival Lady Eagles of Coppin State University would be the key confidence builder in their three match home stand in the next week.

Backed by an exuberant fan base, the Lady Bears proved to be the more durable team of the evening, splitting the first two sets with the Lady Eagles before relying on a late momentum shift in the middle of the third set to march on to a 3-1 victory.

“Tonight, you know, made some people believe we are here,” Head Coach Ramona Riley-Bozier stated after the emphatic 24-14 set three win that sealed the deal for her squad.

Following a slow start to the season, in which they lost five of their first seven matches, the Lady Bears took a complete change in direction. Beginning with a tournament at Providence University, the team won five of their last six heading into the evening. However, their start against the Lady Eagles, a team who came to Hill Field House with a similar overall record on the season consisting of no winning or losing streaks, did not represent that of a team on a turnaround. The Lady Bears went to the locker room rattled by a 25-19 set two loss, at which point Coach Riley-Bozier realized her players needed to be reminded of their season mantra to “focus on the process.”

“I told them, ‘You guys are not playing like you really want to win. You just fought hard to win that first set, then you turned around to go out there and play really lax. You can’t do that,” said Riley-Bozier.

Taking her message to heart, the Lady Bears returned from the break to have their determination tested immediately as Coppin State held leads for most of the third set until both teams got into the 20s. Spearheaded by a mixture of soft kills from junior Dinah Jones and hard spikes via junior Arianna Hayden, Morgan State recovered from a 22-20 deficit to win the third set 25-23. Jones’ taps over the net were troublesome the entire evening for the Lady Eagles, who could not seem to adjust from their normal spike defense whenever she touched the ball.

Jones noted on her change-of-pace scoring method, “I feel like it was all about placement. If I placed the ball in a short spot, they wouldn’t get it, but if I hit it hard, it [would] get blocked and be right back in my face.”

By the final match the Lady Bears had a secure handle of the momentum and a visibly exhausted Lady Eagles team could not keep up with the constant scoring from Morgan State. With an easy, set ending spike from senior Zuri Smith, the Lady Bears 11-point victory unleashed a ground-shaking applause from their supporters who took no hesitation in storming the court to celebrate the win.

“I’m so relieved,” Smith said in regards to her match-ending point. “This is a huge rival for us and I’m really relieved that we pulled it out and that I was able to get the last few kills.”

This victory puts the Lady Bears at 8-6 on the season. The last two matches of their current home series will be against Hampton University on Sunday, Sept. 28, and Norfolk State University on Friday, Oct. 3.

 

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