UNO volleyball comes home for ESJ camp instruction

Published 11:02 am Saturday, May 28, 2016

RESERVE — One by one, the young athletes bent their knees, placed their hands together with palms up and concentrated on the ball.

OK, perhaps they had to be reminded. Often.

These young ladies were just getting started at Thursday’s annual Future Stars Volleyball Camp, a three-day event for girls in grades third through 12th.

Chloe Maiden, 11, works on drills during the volleyball camp at East St. John Thursday.

Chloe Maiden, 11, works on
drills during the volleyball camp at East St. John Thursday.

East St. John head volleyball coach Chelsey Lucas-Nicholas has hosted the event for several years to give local girls a chance to improve their volleyball skills.

“I started this about five years ago when I noticed, I was basically working other camps and they were very overpriced,” Lucas-Nicholas said.

“The girls in this area didn’t have the opportunity to go to those camps.

“It gives the girls that actually have the ability to play volleyball and have the natural talent, the ability to go to these camps and increase their skills.”

Besides Lucas-Nicholas, a longtime high school coach who spent time at Riverside Academy before hopping over the East St. John last fall, the campers received hands-on instruction from current University of New Orleans head volleyball coach Millicent Van Norden.

Van Norden, a LaPlace native and a 1996 East St. John graduate, has 13 years of college coaching experience, 12 as a head coach.

She spent two seasons at her alma mater, Alcorn State, where she got her start as one of the youngest college head coaches in the country.

Her teams won 57 games and back-to-back Southwestern Athletic Conference Eastern Division titles.

“I was fortunate enough to get my start at my alma mater,” Van Norden said.

Van Norden then moved to the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, with stops at North Carolina A&T, South Carolina State and Coppin State. She was the MEAC Coach of the Year twice.

In 2011 Van Norden became an assistant coach at the University of Pittsburg.

She was hired at UNO in March of 2014, joining fellow East St. John alum Keeshawn Carter Davenport, who is the women’s basketball coach there.

“How hysterical is that?” Van Norden said.

“Being at the University of New Orleans was my first time home as a professional.”

Ironically, Van Norden didn’t play volleyball at East St. John. She was a basketball and track athlete.

She knows her stuff now, however, as was evident during Thursday’s afternoon session, where she put the older campers through a grueling warm-up session before getting into game techniques.

For 12-year-old Imani Wilson, the camp was about getting better as a player.

“I’m here because I want to get better in volleyball and this gives me good experience,” Wilson said.

Leah Brock, 12, agreed.

“I’m trying to get better,” she said. “I want to get the most experience I can get.”

Lucas-Nicholas said she was pleased with the turnout of youngsters just a day after the end of the school year. The girls appeared alert and ready to learn how to bump and pass the ball from one to another.

It all bodes well for the future, Lucas-Nicholas said.

“In this area, we need to build volleyball,” she said.

“In order to build it, we need to have these camps. This is the future. That’s why it’s called Future Stars.”