Absent since 2019, the Alabama State University Hornets will step back on the volleyball court for the first time this season.
The last time an audience saw the Hornets on their home court, they suffered a 0-3 loss to Florida University in the first round of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Tournament. Before that, the Lady Hornets hosted the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) title after defeating Prairie View Agricultural and Mechanical University (PVAMU) in the finals.
After opting out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19, the Hornets are back, and this time with a new mindset. Head coach Penny Lucas-White, going into her 10th year at the university, attributed this new mindset to the importance of the time spent away from the court.
“That’s one of the best decisions my team has made for their mental, physical, and academic health,” Lucas-White said.
This team also appears to be quite close as White highlighted the “strong nucleus” built from so much time spent together as a team during the time away from competitions.
She would go on to explain how transformative the team’s culture has become because of the break.
“We were able to reset and reprioritize how we want to return,” Lucas-White said. “….COVID really allowed us to refocus.”
Along with the team’s new mindset, its physical prowess is sure to be felt this season. The team will be one of the tallest in White’s tenure at ASU. In fact, eight of the players are over 6 feet, including 6’6 junior middle blocker Alexis Ratliff. Six players are returning from that 2019 championship squad as well.
The Hornets were also named United States Marine Corps (USMC) and American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Team Academic Award winners during the 2020-21 school year. This is the second consecutive year the Lady Hornets received this award and fourth overall.
This award, established in the 1992-93 academic year, honors volleyball teams that maintain a yearlong grade-point average (GPA) of 3.30 on a 4.0 scale or a 4.10 on a 5.0 scale. White believes the award shows the team’s “discipline” and “creates a level playing field on the court and in the classroom.”
White was sincere when referencing her players.
“They are so talented, positive, and transparent … but even more than that they’re a genuine sisterhood.” With the amount of continuity this team appears to have it will be interesting to see how it will all come together this season.
The Lady Hornets begin the 2021-22 season with four separate tournaments, with their first game against Chattanooga University in the Jacksonville State Tournament on August 27. They will begin the SWAC competition on September 24 versus their rival, Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University (AAMU). According to the preseason poll, it predicts ASU will place second, right behind Alabama A&M.