By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway
Sharonda Pickering became the territory first freshman volleyball player to compete in the National Jr. Colleges Athletics Association Volleyball Tournament and the first senior to play in the NCAA Volleyball Tournament, after helping the Florida Gulf Coast University Eagles to its first ASUN Conference Tournament title in program history on November 18.
The Eagles used a thrilling five set 27-25-25-20, 22-25, 17-25 and 15-12 victory over hosts and defending champions Kennesaw State, who beat them last year, to earn the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. They finished the season with a 26-6 record—including a 15 game winning streak—matching its 2012 and 2016 teams records.
Pickering had a key block among her five and nine kills, that helped repel the Kennesaw Owls, during a key moment of the game.
“It was amazing game,” Pickering told Island Sun Sports. “Kennesaw was the defending champions after winning the title last year. Their fans are loud and it’s a tough environment. Being able to win in five sets against them is an amazing honor and I’m really excited to be going to the NCAA Tournament.”
The Eagles faced the University of Central Florida on Nov 29, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
When asked what it meant to play in the NCAA Tournament in her Senior year after playing at the Jr. College level with Hillsborough Community College in her freshman year, Pickering said how you start is ‘how you finish.’
“I’ve learned so much under coach Gary and continued to grow under Coach Botsford,” she said. “It’s really exciting to see how long our season will go.”