Essence Clerkley named Region XIV Freshman of the Year

Blinn College outside hitter and middle blocker Essence Clerkley (Waxahachie) was named the Region XIV Freshman of the Year.

"It is really exciting that I was named Freshman of the Year and that all of my hard work paid off," Clerkley said. "My coaches, my teammates, and my mom are who really pushed me and kept me focused this season. I really grew as a person and player this year, and enjoyed making new friends with my teammates from all across the world."

Freshman Clerkley earned first-team all-conference after recording 330 kills, sharing the lead in total blocks with 94, and tallying 81 digs in 115 sets to help lead the Buccaneers to the 2019 NJCAA Region XIV Volleyball Championship Tournament. Blinn entered the tournament ranked 19th in the nation.

In Week 4 of  the 2019 season, Clerkley was named NJCAA Division I Volleyball Tachikara Offensive Player of the Week and Sports Imports AVCA Two-Year College Player of the Week after recording 43 kills with a .606 hitting percentage.

"Essence worked hard every single day in practice, the gym and the weight room, so it really paid off for her on the court," Gamble said. "She brought energy and a good work ethic into each day."

Freshman outside hitter Giulia Hortelan (Sao Paulo, Brazil) received second-team all-conference honors, while middle blocker Taylor Henderson (Austin) and setter Jenni Liu (Moers, Germany) were named honorable mention.

"It is a huge accomplishment for all of these players and I credit all of them for their hard work and what they've done this year for the team," Gamble said. "Giulia's ball control and defense was outstanding, and Taylor and Jenni brought stability to their positions. They all brought something really different and good to the table, so they are deserving of these honors."

Hortelan led the Buccaneers with 347 kills and 302 digs in 106 sets, Henderson led the Buccaneers with a .454 hitting percentage for 202 kills and tied for first on the team with 94 total blocks in 106 sets, and Liu led Blinn with 941 assists and ranked fourth on the team with 155 digs in 94 sets.

Blinn finished the season with a 29-8 record and finished sixth in the Region XIV conference with a 4-5 record.

Blinn has competed in intercollegiate athletics since 1903 and captured 41 NJCAA national championships since 1987.