For just the fourth time in Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference history, three women’s volleyball programs won 20 or more matches in 2022.
It was the first time that has happened since 2005.
As 2023 gets underway, the conference’s coaches remarked during the MEAC’s Instagram takeover session Monday afternoon just how much the league has improved across the board.
“From when I first walked in, the growth has been tremendous,” said Coppin State head coach Tim Walsh. “We’re beating teams in conferences who didn’t know who the MEAC was at first. We’re competing at a high level, recruiting has gotten better, and we’re here to let everyone know who the MEAC is.”
“Coaches have stepped out to play solid programs and have had success with it,” North Carolina Central head coach Jody Brown added. “We’re getting strong, healthy competition out of conference, and our conference is getting better and better. It’s really exciting to see and fun to be a part of it.”
Howard and Coppin State are co-favorites to win the conference as picked by preseason voters, with defending champion Delaware State picked third. Norfolk State, North Carolina Central, UMES, Morgan State, and South Carolina State round out the predicted order of finish.
Howard University sophomore outside hitter Rya McKinnon heads the preseason All-MEAC team as preseason player of the year and is joined by senior teammates Jennifer Bolden and Kayla Diaz.
Coppin State is not perfect, but ‘good team’
Coppin State boasts three players – Ammaraah Williams, Ashley Roman, and Andrea Tsvetanova – on the all-conference team, and Delaware State senior Alondra Maldonado also joins the preseason team.
Coppin State is hopeful that hard work will get them over the hump after winning two MEAC regular season titles in the last three years.
“Our mindset is, ‘Let’s keep working hard every day,’ Walsh says. “We’re not a perfect team, but we’re a good team. If we focus on our skill set, build and trust each other as a team, we’ll come away with that victory.”
MEAC champions want to maintain edge
The defending champion Hornets, which made their first NCAA tournament appearance last season, return just two seniors – Maldonado and Valeria Oteri – and bring in new head coach David Brooks, fresh off back-to-back CIAA championships at Elizabeth City State.
“It’s definitely a little different,” Brooks said of his first impressions of the MEAC. “The conference is more athletic, quicker. We want to respect every team and be ready. We’re trying to put last year behind us and focus on what this year can be.”
Howard aims to get back on top
The Bison, meanwhile, are looking to get back to the level of play that won six of seven MEAC tournaments before 2022. For 12th-year head coach Shaun Kupferberg, it’s a matter of competitive practice translating into game action.
“We’re a big, physical team, and all the hard work is paying off,” he says. “It’s allowed us to push the limit and get to a higher level of competition every time we step on the court.”