Courtesy of Tennessee State Athletics
NASHVILLE- Head Coach Donika Sutton and her staff are unsatisfied with an NCAA tournament berth. The 2022 Ohio Valley Conference Volleyball Champions have been busy on the recruiting trail. The team lost some key seniors, but Sutton, in her words, is not replacing them. Her strategy is to get the best recruits and use their strengths to improve the team. The team announced three this past Wednesday, but more to come.
“Losing the players that we lose, people may say that we will have to rebuild,” said Sutton. “You can call it a rebuild or a reload; we call it a chance to repeat. We have lofty goals for this season. The returning players and the players we bring in will improve us. I am excited already about this group.”
The first group includes former TSU nemesis Jayla Holcombe and two players from Puerto Rico, Alanys Otero-Guzman, and Celianiz Cabranes.
Holcombe, a left-handed outside hitter from Bellevue, Illinois, is transferring in from Murray State. She made her college debut against the Tigers in the Spring of 2021. That season, she had an NCAA-best 26 kills in a three-set match against UT Martin. Holcombe is also a former club teammate of Tiger middle Kennedy Davis. Because of that, her parents followed TSU during their OVC tournament championship run. Holcombe will be called upon to bring leadership and offense to the Tiger line-up.
“Jayla’s athleticism is probably her best attribute. Her skill on offense will allow us to compete against some top competition. She already has some continuity, playing with Kennedy. Coming from Murray, she knows what it takes to play in the OVC. We are glad to have her,” added Sutton.
Setter Otero-Guzman will come to the team looking to run the offense. The incoming freshman from Monserrate, Vega Baja, Puerto Rico, has played on multiple championship teams in Puerto Rico. Her ability to quarterback the offense is her most valuable attribute.
Cabranes is a club teammate of the sister of former Tiger Sofia Garcia-Guerrios. According to Sutton, the libero from Bayamon, Bayamon, Puerto Rico, is a fiery competitor that communicates well with her teammates.
These are the first three players to sign with the Tigers for the 2023 season officially. Winning the OVC championship didn’t hurt with getting the TSU name out there. Sutton is optimistic that there are more high-profile signees to come. She feels the culture she has built will make the transition seamless.
“Alanys and Celianiz know how to play the game,” said Sutton. “Our players understand that we need to wrap our arms around players from outside of the United States. Winning the conference has helped give us notoriety when we recruit. Our approach is, if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. We recruited the same way. Our message to the new players is to be themselves, and we as coaches will bring out the best of their abilities.”