HBCU Sports: Volleyball Preview- Southern

2016 Finish: 14-14 (12-6 SWAC), lost in SWAC Volleyball Tournament Semifinals
Key Returners: MB/RS Paige Hall, MB Arabella Hall, OH Shelby Jolly, S Vaterra Calais, RS Brianna Hawkins
Key Losses: OH/RS Melodie Malone, DS/L Diamond Williams

Courtesy: Southern University Sports Information

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The youth movement is in full effect for the Southern Jaguars, as the semifinalist from a year ago heads into 2017 with just one senior on a team filled with talent. However, with that could bring questions in regards to leadership.

While Southern is set to return a vast majority of its offensive firepower, the Jaguars have to address the holes left by longtime standouts in outside hitter Melodie Malone and defensive specialist Diamond Williams. However, the trio of Arabella Hall, Shelby Jolly and Brianna Hawkins each posted strong freshman campaigns in 2016 and are set to make a leap forward this season.

Jolly flirted with the 200-kill plateau, smacking down 191 of them as a key reserve behind Malone and stands to improve on that total this season. Hawkins put in 143 kills in 2016 as well, giving Coach Venessa Jacobs a solid outside duo to lean on.

The strength of the team appears to be in the middle, however, thanks to A. Hall and Paige Hall. A sophomore this year, A. Hall was the team’s leading point-getter, putting down 226 kills and making 101 combined blocks at the net, the latter tops among returning players. P. Hall, a junior, was a 2017 Preseason All-SWAC first-teamer after posting 174 kills and 74 total blocks last year. The two project as one of the most formidable frontlines for the Jaguars this season.

Junior Vaterra Calais will return as the table-setter for the Jaguar attackers after delivering 501 assists and chipping in 31 assists. The Jaguars look well-equipped to absorb the blow delivered the graduation of Malone – a multi-time all-SWAC honoree – but perhaps the more pressing matter to address is the libero spot left by Williams, who graduated from Southern as one of the more decorated defensive specialists in recent league history. To that end, the Jaguars will look to aforementioned lone senior Mariah Clayton as well as sophomore Sameera Mohamed as prime candidates to anchor the defense.

Southern heads to the University of Texas-Arlington to open the 2017 campaign in tournament action starting on Aug. 25 against the likes of UT-Arlington, Houston and McNeese State.