Expectations Are High for Howard Volleyball
By Julee O'Neal, W. Basketball, Broadcast Journalism major '13
WASHINGTON, D.C- The Howard University women's volleyball team has a goal of capturing the Number One spot in this year's Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament.
After the Lady Bison ended last year's season with a 5-5 conference record to finish third in the Northern Division under first year head coach Dawn Barnes, the expectations are a lot higher. To achieve that, she has put together a more competitive non-conference schedule that features some quality competition like the University of Pittsburgh, Connecticut and Rutgers.
"We played high level Big East teams," said Barnes, who came to Howard after serving as an assistant at Pitt. "Playing at Pitt and losing by five is better preparing us for the MEAC. We are learning how to compete."
With a current 1-15 record, the Bison are looking forward to MEAC play.
"We are a young team, so we have to create chemistry faster; we are getting prepared through preseason play and we are aiming to finish Number One in the conference," said Riana Cain, a sophomore from Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Last season, Barnes spent a lot of time learning the competition, so this year she feels that she is better prepared for the competition in the MEAC and her team's potential.
Sports Information Director, Ed Hill came to Howard in 1983, offered a historical perspective. "The level of competition was not nearly as it is now. Many of the student athletes did not have full scholarships. But they improved when they named (former head coach) Linda Spencer as head coach. She took the program to another level through her recruiting efforts. The program was perennially at the top."
Hill continued, "But before long, the MEAC expanded and the member institutions starting offering full scholarships. That is when the conference became more balanced and more competitive."
Barnes feels that teams that pose problems in the North Division are UMES and Norfolk State. South Carolina State University is the standing champions.
Barnes instills positive traits and teaches her team the basic fundamentals of volleyball for her team to be successful in the MEAC and the tournament, December 1-7. "We emphasize doing things by example," said Barnes. "They must follow rules and conduct themselves as adults on and off the court. They must go to all classes, except when we travel, and sit in the first two rows in class. They also have to make sure they communicate with their professors to stay on top of things."
The volleyball conference will be held at Coppin State University in Baltimore, MD.
"Right now, I am trying to get my team on one page; they must communicate and play as a team," said Coach Barnes.
Barnes has two captains, Taylor Johnson, a senior from San Antonio, TX and sophomore Jasmine Tipton, a sophomore from LaVergne, Tenn. to assist with leadership when playing on the court. "They lead by example and have positive traits on and off the court," said Barnes.
Barnes has been involved in volleyball for majority of her life. She found inspiration through her godmother, Hope Williams, who has been following Barnes career since she first started coaching in 1993, at Augustana College. "She is a great role model and mentor. She inspires me to be the best I can be," praised Barnes. "I can do anything I set my mind to through my belief in God."
"Barnes has shown big improvement from the last season; she is bringing back the stability Howard had in the 1980's," said Hill. "She has a plan and vision for what she wants to do."