Sat | Sep 23, 2023

Aiko is awesome says Louisville volleyball coach

Published:Saturday | September 24, 2022 | 12:08 AMHubert Lawrence/Gleaner Writer
Aiko Jones (third right) goes high to make a play during a Louisville Cardinals’ NCAA Sweet 16 match against Texas in Austin.
Aiko Jones (third right) goes high to make a play during a Louisville Cardinals’ NCAA Sweet 16 match against Texas in Austin.

Semifinalists last year, the University of Louisville are poised to make another deep run through the NCAA Volleyball women’s championships. Jamaica’s Aiko Jones is part of a stable core of senior players who have given coach Dani Busboom Kelly high goals for the 2022 season. Jones and her teammates enter a crucial series of games this weekend, but coach Kelly is quietly optimistic.

Jones, the former Wolmer’s Girls captain, is one of three Louisville players to have scored over 100 points this season and Kelly rates her highly. “Aiko is awesome,” the coach said of her net menace. “First of all, she’s a great player, but she’s also a great person and a great leader so when you consider the whole package, because she’s talented and she does all the great things off the court, that helps you be successful.”

Jones is dangerous when she serves as well, standing 10th in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) in service aces. Off the court, she was elected president of SCORE, (Student Athletes of Color Combining Opportunity and Responsibility for Excellence), named to the All-ACC Academic team, the ACC Honor Roll and the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll.

The six-foot-two-inch Jamaican is part of a seasoned unit which includes three seniors, two graduate students and several third-year players and Kelly believes their accumulated experience is a plus. “We have the players that are familiar with our programme and then we have players who know what it takes. So, the mentality part, it kind of comes along with experience and age, so it definitely makes it a little bit easier at my end,” Kelly agreed.

The results speak for themselves. Louisville are 9-1 in wins and losses this season and are the number-two team in the country. A loss to Ohio State is now disappearing into the rear-view mirrors and triumph over number nine Purdue, a hard-fought 3-2 success against Kentucky and a defeat of Stanford have put the reigning Atlantic Coast Conference champions in line for a title shot.

Asked if her team could make another run at the NCAA title, she responded, “We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, but we have high goals and we hope we can make another deep run. We realise how fun that was and how exciting it is and it kind of makes you want more.”

This weekend Louisville will start its conference obligations by visiting the University of Miami and Florida State University this weekend.

Louisville, Jones and the group will try to be sharper as the tournament unfolds.

“I think we need to keep getting better at our blocking and defence and we need to diversify our offence, so those are a few things on the court that we’re looking to improve,” the coach analysed.