Coach Van Norden will get a chance to see her new team in action this weekend.

Aug 29, 2013

PRINCESS ANNE, Md. - The UMES Volleyball Team will begin a new era in 2013 under first-year head coach Millicent Van Norden. Van Norden will look to continue a tradition of success at UMES, leading the two-time defending Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion in hopes of a three-peat.

They start the title defense this weekend in Peoria, Ill. playing in the CEFCU Classic, hosted by Bradley University. The Hawks will play three matches, one on Friday against the University of Tennessee-Martin at 4:00 p.m. and then a pair of matches on Saturday playing the host Braves at 1:30 p.m. and then Western Illinois at 6:00 p.m. All matches will have live stats and live video with the latter on a pay-to-view basis.

"We just hope to develop some chemistry on the court and get a feel for who does what well. We have practiced well in the pre-season but nothing prepares you for game action and with so many new players it's important we use this event as a learning experience," said Coach Van Norden.

In 2012 the Hawks had their most successful season in school history, going 28-6 with three in-season invitational championships and winning their second MEAC title in a row, earning a berth into the NCAA Tournament. This year's team will have to reload the talent, after the departure of all-conference players Ndidi Ibe and Jessie Vicic and all-tournament players Saitaua Iosia and Victoria Williams, with just one returner and a solid incoming class that brings in 11 newcomers.

The outside hitter corps will restock will a number of strong newcomers. Maline Vaitai (Salt Lake City, Utah), who became a member of UMES's 1,000-kill club last season, will not play in 2013 and looks to return for 2014. She earned 352 kills, 40 service aces, 57 blocks and 222 digs last season and had double digit kills in 17 matches last season.



Transferring from Winthrop University, sophomore Diara Lewis (Columbia, S.C.) will join the UMES ranks this season. Playing sparingly for the Eagles last year, Lewis is a former member of the USA Junior National Team on 2009 and 2010.

Another four-year transfer will be Ashley Smith who comes in after playing one season at DII Kentucky Wesleyan College. As a true freshman, Smith was second on the team in kills and attacks and third in hitting percentage. She earned All-Tournament honors in the season as well.

Odessa Junior College transfer Lauren Berry (Bloomington, Ill.) also comes to UMES for her first season. A two-sport athlete at Odessa in volleyball and basketball, Berry hit .262 for the Wranglers last season, earning 252 kills and 43 blocks.

After the Hawks lost a pair of California hitters, freshman Moriah Brookins (Cypress, Calif.) will look to fill the void. The team captain of Cypress High led the Centurions to a regular season title in the CSS Empire Division last year.

The middle blocker unit will be completely different in 2013 after the graduation of Ibe and Corey Haynes, relying on three newcomers.

Coming in from Scottsdale Community College, junior Amanda Hanson (Phoenix, Ariz.) was the top offensive player for the Fighting Artichokes. Hanson earned a squad-best 237 kills and 21 service aces, hitting .279 with 45 total blocks and 166 digs.

Freshman Haley Robinson (Honolulu, Hawaii) joins the ranks from Hawaii after playing on one of the best high school squads in the country. Robinson earned all-league honors with the `Iolani School, ranked 88th in the country in 2012.

Brookins can also compete as a middle blocker as well as on the outside.

A couple of newcomers will challenge last year's starting libero, senior Jingqiao Li (Beijing, China). Li played every set with the libero shirt last year, leading the team with 297 digs, earning double digit digs in 13 matches.

A pair of freshmen will look for time on defense. Precious Manu (Carson, Calif.) from, Carson High School along with Allison Woods (Magnolia, Texas), an all-district player that helped Magnolia High go undefeated in league play last year, will look for time on the defense.

UMES will have new players positioning the ball after the departure of all three setters from last year. Coming in is freshman Sonia Rosales (Victorville, Calif.) is one of the top setters from California. A two-time all-conference player, she led Serrano High to a Mojave River League title in 2012.

Millicent Van Norden, the coach of 2010 MEAC champion South Carolina State, takes the helm of UMES volleyball for her first season. She is a two-time MEAC Coach of the Year in 2005 and 2008. Before spending last year as an assistant coach at the University of Pittsburgh, she had successful coaching stops at her alma mater of Alcorn State as well as MEAC schools North Carolina A&T, South Carolina State and Coppin State.

UMES will play in four in-season tournaments before a full conference slate. The season will start in Peoria, Illinois with the Bradley Invitational, followed by the Sacred Heart Invitational, Norfolk State Invitational and Buffalo Invitational. The first home match will be against Delaware State on Friday, September 27th against Delaware State at 7 p.m., where UMES will continues its Division I-leading 30-match home winning streak. After a 12-match conference schedule, UMES will look to win its third-straight MEAC Tournament at Coppin State in Baltimore from November 15th-17th.

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