In addition to the usual offerings of soccer and American football, Latino sports fans are in for a special treat this fall. Savannah State University (SSU) has recruited a women's volleyball team that includes four talented young Latina athletes.
At the collegiate level, women's volleyball is much more popular than men's. In 2014, there were 1,674 college teams for women versus just 111 for male players. Observers note that men's volleyball is all about speed and power while the women's version involves longer rallies featuring much more finesse and style. In short, it's just a lot more fun to watch.
No one is happier these Latina athletes chose to become Lady Tigers than Jessika Garcia, Hispanic Recruiter in the office of admissions at SSU.
Garcia is a native of Puerto Rico and holds degrees in business marketing and business administration from Inter-American University of Puerto Rico. She travels across the US introducing Latino high school students to campus life at SSU.
“I am very excited to welcome these young women to Savannah State,” she said. “We have around 200 Latino students enrolled here for the Fall semester and I look forward to seeing all of our Latino friends come out to our games and cheer them on to victory.”
This fall, Bahamas native, Edric Poitier, begins his second year as coach of the Lady Tigers after the team finished the 2016 season with a disappointing 2-25 record. Overall, Poitier has posted a 192-135 record in 11 seasons as a head coach in Division II. He is a three-time CIAA Coach of the Year, won four consecutive CIAA Championships with three NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional appearances.
Poitier graduated from St. Augustine’s College in 2003 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice. He played on the Bahamas National team from 1979 to 1992.
“This will be my first year at SSU coaching a team I recruited and I am really excited about our Lady Tiger's prospects this year,” Poitier said. “I competed against Puerto Rican teams as a player so I'm very familiar with their aggressive, hard-charging style of play. Puerto Rican teams are known for their strong defense and I still remember one time huddling with my teammates, thinking we had scored a point, only to realize the PR team had pancaked the ball and scored on us instead.”
La Voz Latina met with the student athletes last month on the SSU campus at Willcox-Wiley Gymnasium on a typically hot and sticky summer afternoon. Even though the gym's air conditioning was temporarily out of service, the Latinas were unfazed by the heat and humidity. “In Puerto Rico, our gyms are usually not air-conditioned so we're used to playing under these conditions” said one.
The new additions to the Lady Tigers roster are passionate about volleyball and name as heroes several prominent Latina athletes including: Daly Santana, a Puerto Rican all-star who won All-American honors playing for the Minnesota Gophers and now plays professional volleyball; Debora Seilhamer, another collegiate All-American from Puerto Rico; and Stephanie Enright, an 8-year veteran of the Puerto Rican women's national team who now plays professional volleyball.
Here is a brief rundown on the Latina team members.
Jennifer Rosado is a 5'-11” athlete who plays right side. She will enter SSU as a junior having transferred in from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.. She is majoring in biology with plans to become an orthodontist. Jennifer's father is from Puerto Rico and her mother is Colombian. Her hometown is Gainesville, Florida.
“When I heard Coach Poitier was coaching the volleyball program here, I knew I wanted to transfer and finish out my college career playing for him,” Rosado said. “I left him a voice mail and he called me back immediately, saying he wanted me to play for SSU.”
Amanda Sofía Rullán Vilanova is 5'-10” and plays right side/outside hitter. She is a 17-year-old freshman, originally from Bayamón, Puerto Rico. She plans to major in accounting.
“When I first visited Savannah back in February it was very cold,” Rullán said. “But Savannah is a very pretty city with lots of history. My backup plan is to become a C.P.A. and study law but number one goal is to play professional volleyball.”
Leiri Lee Meléndez Rodríguez is 5'-5” and plays Libero. She is an 18-year-old freshman, originally from Ponce, Puerto Rico. The libero on the volleyball court is a defensive specialist who must be quick and aggressive and have superior ball-handling skills. Leiri plans to major in sports medicine at SSU.
“Savannah is very different from Puerto Rico,” she said. “The people here are more friendly and they make you feel comfortable.”
Salma Mia González is 5'-8” and plays setter/outside hitter. She is a 17-year-old freshman, originally from Isabela, Puerto Rico. She plans to major in biology and wants to become a radiologist.
“Being away from family and friends, I was scared at first,” González said. “But the older girls have really helped a lot as I adjust to my new surroundings.”
The SSU Lady Tigers play in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC). The team has a tough start with 17 road games scheduled before their home opener on September 29th against Bethune-Cookman University at 6 pm. They follow up two days later (Sunday, October 1st) with a home match at 1pm against Florida A&M University.
If you love watching competitive sports and want to celebrate your Latino heritage at the same, make plans now to come out and support these talented young athletes.
For a complete listing of games scheduled for this fall please visit www.ssuathletics.com/index.aspx?path=wvball