Despite set-backs, the Gold Nuggets volleyball team plans on striking gold this season. As of Sept. 15, the Nuggets hold a 6-4 record. Before their first match Aug. 29 at the Convocation Center, the Nuggets got off to a not-so golden start. Due to equipment and facility issues—a broken net, unavailable facilities, not being able to track down the poles in the fitness center—the Nuggets had only one week to practice before taking on Mississippi Valley at the Convocation Center.
“We’ve had a couple obstacles fly in our direction,” said the Nuggets’s head coach, Hannah Lawing. The Nuggets have also had to contend with losing senior Chinedu Echebelum last season and what she brought to the team. “She was a very important senior. Without even saying much, just her intensity and her aura gave off this vibe that everyone just wanted to latch onto, and I think that that’s going to be very hard to replace,” saidLawing.
What Echebelum brought to the court would be hard to replace, but Lawing added that the current six seniors—Darian Harris; Claudia Haywood; Jodi
Hill; Fransizka Pirkl; Taylor Reuther and CeCe Williams— are “starting to display” a little bit of Echebelum’s natural motivation. However, it hasn’t been all bad news for the Nuggets, who finished 20-6 overall last season and 14-0 in the Gulf Coast Atlanta Conference. Last season, the Nuggets had a team high of 65 kills (Oct. 10); 202 attacks (Oct. 1); 64 assists (Oct. 10); 15 aces (twice); 108 digs (Oct. 1); 10 blocks (Sept. 26); and a hitting percentage of .468 Oct. 27 versus Edward Waters College. This season, the Nuggets should do even better, according to Lawing, with a “bigger” presence at the net.
“We are more offensively capable than last year. Not only is it intimidating but it gives us more of an efficient offense. We can see things a little bit better with a bigger presence.”The bigger presence is a result of three newcomers to the Nuggets team—Sarah Pitts-Groce; Ruby Hunts-Thompson and Patricia Young Yen. Pitts- Groce is a true freshman from Atlanta; Hunts-Thompson is a true freshman from Illi.; and Young Yen is a transfer from Otero junior College in Utah. Lawing had this to say on Yen: “She’s very spunky and quirky and energetic and eccentric. A really great combo to the team. She’s a very explosive middle. I think she’s going to make a really big impact on the court.” As for the other two freshman,Lawing said the two six footers bring a lot of fundamental value. Both freshman are still finding their way, “as far as where their niche is on the court” and with the team.
Despite their four losses, the Nuggets have gone 2-0 in the Gulf Coast Atlantic Conference. With their new players and more practice time, the Nuggets will get back on track. The rest of the roster includes: junior Ralitsa Hadzhistoyanova and sophomores Jada Broussard, Kayla Jones, Kaelan Temple and Aliyah Wilson. The Nuggets will be at home Sept. 19 against Tougaloo and Sept. 22 against cross-town rival Dillard Bleu Devils.
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