Cape Fear volleyball is off to an undefeated start at 14-0. It's their best start since head coach Emily Coleman took over as head coach in 2013, and helping lead the way is sophomore setter Ali Jenkins, who was named NJCAA Division II Player of the Week for September 18-24th. Jenkins finished with 180 assists and 17 service aces for the week, as the Sea Devils went 6-0.
Jenkins, who hails from Johnson City, Tennessee, started the week by racking up a season high of 50 assists in a thrilling 3-2 win over Louisburg College, and followed it up with 42 more in a 3-2 win over Surry Community College.
She found out about winning while in class, which didn't allow her time to process the significance of the award. It wasn't until afterwards that it really hit her.
"I found out in class, and I just looked at it and thought, that's pretty cool," said Jenkins casually, "but then whenever I got out I was like, that's REALLY cool."
So what helped make her week so special? Her teammates' "perfect" passes.
"[My teammates] were giving me money passes, and there was no way I couldn't give my hitters a perfect set."
But Jenkins' strong play has extended well beyond one week. For the season, she has been prolific, averaging 8.67 assists per set, which ranks 2nd in Region 10 and 19th in NJCAA Division II (as of Sept. 26th) She also averages 0.69 service aces per set, good enough for 4th in the conference and 22nd in the country.
In eight conference matches, she ranks 2nd in total assists (280), assists per set (9.66), service assists (27), and service assists per set (0.93).
Setters help the offense run smoothly by picking the right spots to attack. It means being not only aware of how your teammates are performing, but how the opposition is as well.
"I focus on who is getting hot on our team, who is getting the most kills, and I feed them the ball. I look at the other team to see where their weakest block is, and I give that hitter on my side the ball. Whoever is hot, I just keep feeding them the ball."
This strong start to the season comes as the Sea Devils adjust to playing in a new gym. With the Schwartz Center under renovation, the volleyball team has had to play their home matches 45 minutes away at Brunswick Community College. It hasn't been an easy adjustment, but Jenkins praised the quality of the court.
"It's tough because we don't get to play at home, so we don't get [a lot of the] fans that came to all of our games last year. But Brunswick is a great gym to play in, it's the perfect volleyball gym."
A sophomore, Jenkins has an expanded role in her second season with the squad. She worked hard in the offseason focusing on improving her defense by playing a lot of sand volleyball.
"I played a lot of outdoor volleyball, which helped me a lot on the defensive aspect of the game. I played doubles in sand and that helped a lot with defense."
As far as personal goals, Jenkins wants to, "rack up as many assists as possible."
"I want to see how high that number can get."
For her teammates, the goal is simple -- continue to win.
"As a team, we are undefeated, and I want that to continue."
Jenkins and the rest of the Cape Fear volleyball team return to action on Friday, October 6th as they participate in the Catawba Valley Tournament. Their next home game is Tuesday, October 10th at 6:00 p.m. against Vance-Granville Community College.
Courtesy of Nick Denning