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Announce Exclusive: Clemson’s Middle has Tigers in Thick of ACC Race

Oct. 8, 2011

CLEMSON, SC – With Clemson ahead two sets to one against Boston College Friday night at Clemson’s Jervey Gymnasium, and needing one more point to close out the match, middle hitter Sandra Adeleye knew it was time to go home.

The Tigers had allowed Boston College to stay in the match long enough. Clemson had a 20-15 lead in the fourth set, but watched the Eagles rally to take a 24-23 lead. Adeleye’s kill on a tip tied the set and then she gave the Tigers the advantage with a solo block on the next point.

The junior then helped close the match with an assisted block from setter Hannah Brenner to give Clemson a 3-1 victory.

“Sometimes, when it goes five sets, things don’t always work out the way you want it to,” Adeleye said. “When you get the opportunity, you have to shut it down early and we know that from experience.”

That experience has carried the Tigers to a 12-5 overall record, including a 4-2 mark in the ACC as they host Maryland tonight at 7 p.m. Most of that experience comes from the front line where Clemson has perhaps the best group of hitters and blockers in the ACC.

Coming into tonight’s match, Adeleye, along with fellow junior Alexa Rand have combined for 343 kills and 157 blocks, which ranks as one of the best duos in the ACC. When throwing in sophomore Mo Simmons and her 141 kills and 52 blocks, Clemson’s front line is one of the best in the nation.

Those three led the Tigers to 13 blocks in win over BC.

“In the past we have been young (up front), but now they have been playing for a couple of years together now and with a little more experience, they are a little more confident and playing better together,” Clemson Head Coach Jolene Hoover said.  

Having that experience has allowed Hoover to establish a 6-2 rotation, which ultimately means she always has two setters and six hitters in rotation. Most teams only have enough hitters and setters to run a 5-1.

“Because we are running that we always have a dominant front row no matter who is up there,” Simmons said.

That rotation means either Adeleye or Rand are on the front line, blocking attacks and generally causing havoc for opposing teams. This alignment gives Clemson a chance to win each and every game, which is important in a conference like the ACC, which has so many good teams.

“They have great team chemistry,” Hoover said. “I think some years you don’t have that, and you don’t really know why, but it seems like they are really playing well together and they really like each other.”

That was definitely the case against the Eagles. Adeleye recorded nine kills and had five blocks, while Simmons registered a career-high 16 kills and had two blocks. Rand had seven kills and seven blocks.

“Because of our energy, we don’t want the ball to come back across that net regardless of who is hitting it or how,” Simmons said. “We are a great blocking team. Having Alexa and Sandra up there, you want to get on their level. That makes me and the others raise our game, and that’s what we do.

“Playing with them and getting a feel for how they block, how they run, how they talk and how we move on the court that really helps us become a better blocking team. We vibe together, it’s unreal how close we are.”

And how dominant in the middle they have become.

“Our chemistry is really good. We know how each other plays and we feel really comfortable playing with each other,” Adeleye said. “When you have more experience, you have more confidence.”