The Wolfpacker

September 2018

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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68 ■ THE WOLFPACKER an increased role in her senior campaign. "Teni has been a mainstay in our lineup," Hampton-Keith said. "She stepped in when we had an injury last year, and she also filled in at another position. "She's moved around a lot for us and has been willing to do whatever it takes for the team to be successful. I see her continuing to do that for us." The Pack will also welcome some talented freshmen, including Pam Chukwujekwu, a middle blocker from Laurel, Md. "Pam is a middle that has just untapped potential," Hampton-Keith said. "We're re- ally excited about getting her in the gym and seeing what she can do." Talented rookie setter Nina Sharpton is also ready to make her debut. She arrived on cam- pus in January, and the coaching staff thinks the extra time she has spent with the team will help her development and performance. "She has a spring and a summer under her belt, and she's a little bit further along down the road than the other freshmen," Hampton- Keith explained. While this year's team will be different from last season's, Hampton-Keith thinks that the combination of the talent returning and newcomers arriving will give the Wolf- pack a chance to be successful despite losing three starters. "We have a very good team, and we're re- ally excited about the opportunity," the coach noted. "If we are fortunate to do what we did last year, then great. But it's going to be under a whole different set of circumstances." A challenging start to the season — the Pack faces two NCAA Tournament teams from last year on Aug. 24 and 26 — will certainly help Hampton-Keith's squad begin to find itself. "I think that's going to be a really good gauge right out of the gate," she said. "How you do on opening weekend isn't any indica- tion on how you finish, but it's a good test right out of the water with the level of play that we need to be playing at." The team has its sights set on returning to the NCAA tournament for the second straight season. "We definitely have the potential to go again," Hampton-Keith said. "That's the plan and the goal. We just have to be patient." ■ Newcomer To Watch Nina Sharpton comes to Raleigh from Park Vista High School in Lake Worth, Fla. She en- rolled at NC State in January after completing her high school career. She garnered first-team 9A All-Palm Beach honors as a senior, totaling 442 assists, 87 digs, 64 blocks and 18 service aces. She was also named a Senior Ace as one of the top 150 recruits in the nation. Three Players To Watch Senior setter Kylie Pickrell A transfer from Arizona State, Pickrell was named a 2017 first-team All-ACC selection in her first sea- son in the league. She led the conference in total as- sists with 1,301, which ranked 25th nationally. She also broke the school's single-game rally-scoring-era record in the win at Florida State with 70 assists, the most of any ACC player last season and tied for third nationally. Senior middle blocker Teni Sopitan Last season, she started in 22 matches and fin - ished fourth on the team with 245 kills. Sopitan notched double-digit kills in 11 matches, including a season-high 18 at Florida State, and finished fourth on the team in blocks with 76. Sophomore opposite hitter Melissa Evans Evans appeared in 20 total matches in 2017 with 15 starts. She was named to the ACC All-Freshman Team despite missing over a month of the sea - son with an ankle injury. Prior to the setback, she ranked second on the team in kills with 161 through 13 matches. ■ By The Numbers 13.2 Assists per set last season for NC State, a record in the rally-scoring era. The Wolfpack also set a new program mark for total as - sists with 1,667. 4 All-ACC players for the Pack last year (two first- team selections and a pair of second-team hon- orees), the most in one season in school history. This year, two NC State players were named to the preseason All-ACC team (senior setter Kylie Pickrell and sophomore opposite hitter Melissa Evans). 14.0 Kills per set average for the Pack last year, to go along with 1,768 total kills, both NC State all-time bests. Noting The Pack • Rising senior Kylie Pickrell and rising sophomore Melissa Evans were named to the 2018 preseason All-ACC team, and NC State was predicted to finish tied for seventh in the projected league standings. Pickrell led the conference in assists in 2017 with 1,301 and recorded the program's first triple-dou- ble in the rally-scoring era. Evans was named to the ACC All-Freshman team despite missing nearly a month of the season with an injury. She finished the year with 202 kills and 53 blocks. • In 2018, the Pack will face off against eight NCAA Tournament teams from last year. They will also meet 19 teams that finished in the top 100 in the RPI in 2017, including 11 squads that ranked in the top 50. • Head coach Linda Hampton-Keith will go up against her former boss, Jason Watson, when the team plays Arkansas. Hampton-Keith worked under Watson at Arizona State. Sophomore opposite hitter Melissa Evans was limited to 20 matches last year due to injury, but still earned ACC All-Freshman honors. PHOTO COURTESY NC STATE MEDIA RELATIONS

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