By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway
What a difference a year makes. Sharonda Pickering and her teammats are struggling this season after she helped the Hillsborough (Fla.) Community College Lady Hawks to earn the National Jr. Colleges Association Volleyball Championships bronze medal last year—their second in three years. Just hallway into the 2016 season, they have a 13-5 mark after sporting a 34-6 record last year,.
The weekend was a microcosm of the team’s tribulations.
“We played Miami Dade and it was a really tough matchup for us, because one or two girls really hit the ball and we had difficulties defending them,” Pickering, a sophomore middle blocker explained. “Instead of matching up to our opponent, we kind of backed down and they took three sets away from us.”
Following the 20-25, 20-25 and 10-25 loss to Miami, Pickering said they entered their afternoon game with Missouri State West Plains and lost the first set lost 22-25, but they couldn’t get the Miami loss off their mind. Although they took the second set 25-18, West Plains overpowered them in the next two 15-25 and 25-21.
“The ref made some calls against us and we stood up for our teammate and took the second set but somehow, we couldn’t close to finish off,” she said. “We were able to beat Palm Beach, 25-23, 25-23 and 25-20. I felt we played better as a team. Our setter gave us a lot of one on one options and we just swung away. Palm Beach was a tough macth up but we found a way to grind it out.”
In the evening, they needed five sets to fend off Daytona State, 18-25, 25-12, 25-19, 20-25 and 15-11.
“We had beaten them twice before, but this time, they came as a better team and pushed and pushed us and ended up going five sets and we improved to 13-5,” she noted. “This game was based on a lot of emotions, our coach being very aggressive with us, knowing we were capable of beating this team and he didn’t want us to back down but match up and show them that we are the better team and we pulled it off.”
Comparing this with last season, the 20 year-old sophomore said she made a lot of defensive plays last year, but wasn’t able to keep up with the game, so her offensive game dipped a bit, but this season, she continue to help her team with defensive plays, always being a blocker.
“I’ve improved this year to where I’m helping my team out with offensive plays and that way the setter has more options and we’re able as a team to spread the court more,” she pointed out. “So, my game has improved and it still continues to improve as we go into the season. I’m really looking to see how much further I can develop to even be a better player.”