By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway
Sharonda Pickering will end her first semester at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, Florida with a ‘great experience.’
On Saturday night, Pickering, 19, the tallest player on the Lady Hawks’ Women’s Volleyball team at 6’2”, helped them their second National Jr. Colleges Association Volleyball Championships bronze medal in three years.
“Coming into that game, our coach told us, ‘this is it, you’re either going to be on the podium or not,’” Pickering said after the #5 Lady Hawks—in their seventh National Championships appearance in the last decade—defeated #3 Northwestern College in four sets, 23-25, 25-13, 25-17 and 25-16. They finished the season 34-6.
“We were either playing for third place or going home empty handed,” she added. “In the first set, we didn’t play our best brand of volleyball. Personally, I didn’t get any blocks, I was late all the time getting up for blocks and for hitting and, it really put a bad dent in our team and they won the first set.”
She said it didn’t kill their momentum as they returned, played their game, won, then carried the momentum into victory.
The Lady Hawks began play by knocking off #8 Wallace State in straight sets, 25-18, 25-11 and 25-18, then in the quarter finals, they also pulled off a straight set victory over #4 Iowa Western, 27-25, 25-21 and 25-23.
In the semifinals, the Lady Hawks fell to top seeded and eventual champs Southern Idaho in straight sets, 25-14, 25-15, 25-23.
“We played, but didn’t play to the best of our ability, didn’t play as a team and we let ourselves down and I think the other team took advantage of us not playing as a team and they were able to get an edge over us and we ended up losing that game, unfortunately,” she explained. “We made some plays that weren’t rewarding and we were shut down. We got blocked a lot and a lot of things didn’t go our way. But, we still fought, had a battle but didn’t pull through with a victory. However, being third in the nation is a very good achievement for us.”
Pickering said the championships was a mental challenge—being zoned in to every play, the movement of the ball and going to get blocks—but really enjoyed the experience.
“I would like to go back to nationals again—not to come third—but to be the winner,” she stated. “It was a great experience for me and the team.”