Serna returns from injury as ‘Niners head to Illinois
Published: Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 12, 2012 20:09
Alma Serna has exchanged her crutches and walking boot for court shoes and kneepads.
Although she has been limited in her return to action, Serna is finally back on the court after being sidelined by an opening-match ankle sprain for nearly three weeks. The Long Beach State women’s volleyball team welcomed the sophomore middle blocker back to practice on Tuesday and will need her skills to boost the team’s presence at the net.
The ‘Niners will head to Peoria, Ill. this weekend and wrap up nonconference play with three matches in two days at the Bradley Invitational. Serna’s status for the tournament is still in question, however, and the team may have to play without her for a little while longer.
“She is about 50 percent right now, and we’ll see how that progresses as the week goes on,” head coach Brian Gimmillaro said. “Hopefully she’ll be able to contribute.”
In Serna’s absence, sophomore Chisom Okpala has led the ‘Niners at the net and showed continued growth during extended playing time. Gimmillaro believes Serna and Okpala can become a solid tandem once they have match experience together.
“[Okpala] is fast, and it’s giving her an opportunity to develop,” Gimmillaro said. “There are parts of her game that are ahead of others. We’re hoping that she can become a very good middle, maybe halfway through the season. That’s the goal. She’s doing more things better every day.”
The Beach (3-5) will start the tournament on Friday with a match against Arkansas State. The Red Wolves (7-5) have won three straight matches and are led by seniors Kelsie Hodges and Jasmine Terry, who have combined for 240 kills. Hodges has 104 kills and is hitting at a .357 clip.
The 49ers will get back on the court on Saturday for two more matches. The first will be against the Huskies of Northern Illinois. NIU (7-6) is led by senior outside hitter Meghan Romo, who has provided 164 kills and 58 digs while hitting .187.
The tournament will conclude later in the day when The Beach takes on Northern Iowa. The Panthers (7-4) are anchored by senior outside hitter Amy Braun, who has compiled 128 kills and 147 digs on .239 hitting.
“We know [our opponents] will be good RPI teams by the end, so we need to be successful there,” Gimmillaro said. “You’re talking about three teams that will go to the tournament and all have RPI value, so these are very important matches for us to get back in the hunt.”
The match with Northern Iowa will wrap up nonconference play for LBSU. The 49ers will kick off Big West Conference play on Sept. 21 with a home match against Cal Poly.