After losing in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) championship last season, the Lady Bison volleyball team is coming into conference play hot with revenge on their mind.
Led by sophomore outside hitter Rya Mckinnon, who was named the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference player of the year as a freshman, the Lady Bison started off 3-1 in conference play. Their only loss last season came from Delaware State, who beat them in the championship game.
The 2023-2024 season has seen a lot of players step up for the team, including fifth-year senior setter Kayla Diaz. This season, Diaz has picked up three Setter of the Week awards in the MEAC. Diaz is currently listed in the top 30 in the nation in total service aces, and leads the MEAC in that same category. Her play has been an essential part of the Lady Bison’s 3-1 start to the season.
In their most recent conference match against Maryland Eastern Shore, the Lady Bison picked up a 3-0 sweep for their third MEAC conference win. Led by Rya Mckinnon, who finished with 14 kills and four digs, the Lady Bison acquired a statement victory after their loss against Delaware state. That contest only added to the accolades Mckinnon has amassed so far.
On the year, she leads the team with 242 points and 216 kills. Mckinnon’s campaign last year was clearly only the beginning for her Howard volleyball career. This season, she is on pace to possibly become MEAC player of the year for a second consecutive year, a feat that would solidify her place as a legend.
When a team has been towards the top for a lengthy period of time, like the Lady Bison have, competition often has to become internal. Sophomore libero Claire Simpson, who currently leads the team in digs, detailed the team’s focus on growth from within the program.
“Coming into practice with the intent to leave better is the most important thing for us right now,” Simpson told The Hilltop. “The other teams in the MEAC all want to beat us… we just have to keep trying to perfect our game to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Last year’s heartbreaking loss in the MEAC championship wasn’t expected by players and fans. This season, it’s evident that the Lady Bison volleyball team has come back even more focused and diligent. Even though they lost to Delaware State again in the regular season, the energy is clearly switching in the Bison’s favor after their bounce back win against Maryland Eastern Shore. It’s clear that the Lady Bison and Delaware State have a budding rivalry in the sport of volleyball, with both teams planning to see each other in the MEAC championship once again. This time around, the Bison aim to take the victory.
“(Delaware State) has always been our biggest competition in conference. This year more than ever we’re feeling it, because we want to get our title back,” Simpson explained.
Copy edited by Whitney Meritus