MSU's Riley-Bozier Set for Milestone 30th Season
BALTIMORE, Md., Aug. 23, 2017--With the start of the 2017 season looming just a day away, there’s no getting around Morgan State volleyball without either thinking about or mentioning head coach Ramona Riley-Bozier in the same breath.
On Friday, Riley-Bozier will enter her 30th season on the sideline for Morgan State. Riley-Bozier’s longevity and success have come to define Morgan State volleyball. Easily one of the most decorated coaches in the history of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), she is also one of the most accomplished coaches in any sport in the history of Morgan State athletics.
A native of Kansas City, Mo., Riley-Bozier was a two-sport star in volleyball and track & field at Morgan State. On the track she was a three-time All-American and ran the first leg on Morgan’s 4X100-meter relay team, which in 1986 set the school record in a time of 44.47 seconds. That record still stands today. The squad also won the Penn Relays and finished second that year at the Div. I National Championship.
Riley-Bozier was also talented as a volleyball player during her days at Morgan State. She is one of 10 players to reach 1,000 kills. Her 1,075 kills are tied for seventh all-time at Morgan State. She was inducted into the Morgan State Hall of Fame in 2003.
Her five MEAC titles, three NCAA appearances, five MEAC Coach of the Year awards and four MEAC Tournament Most Outstanding Coach honors are just a few of her accomplishments over the course of her remarkable and historic coaching career.
After going winless in her first season as head coach, Riley-Bozier regrouped and gradually turned the Morgan State program around. By her fourth season, the 1991 team would set the school record with 27 wins and reach their first MEAC title match, falling short to Howard in five games. A year later the Lady Bears would capture the program’s first conference volleyball championship with a victory over Florida A&M.
From 1994-2003, Riley-Bozier’s teams dominated the MEAC Northern Division, winning 88 consecutive matches and eight straight division crowns. During that stretch, the Lady Bears would appear in nine straight MEAC Championship matches, winning four of them (1992, ‘97, ‘98, ‘00). The 1999 championship would later be awarded to Morgan State by forfeit from Florida A&M, giving the Lady Bears a fifth league title. Morgan State would also have three NCAA tournament appearances (1997, ‘98, ‘00) during that span.
The Lady Bears would return to the top of the MEAC in 1997, claiming the program’s second championship with another win over Florida A&M. Morgan State would then sweep Grambling State in a NCAA Play-In match to become the first Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) program to advance to the NCAA Tournament.
Riley-Bozier will look to guide the 2017 Lady Bears to the program’s sixth MEAC title. The winningest coach of all-time in any sport at Morgan State with 433 career victories, Riley-Bozier enters this season ranked tied for 42nd on the NCAA charts for wins by active coaches.
Riley-Bozier took some time out to reflect on her remarkable career, as she kicks off her milestone 30th season opener this Friday, August 25 in Greensboro, N.C. against Wake Forest in the Spartan-Demon Deacon Classic hosted by UNC-Greensboro.
Ramona Riley-Bozier, Head Coach
“Aug. 7th, 2017 marked my 30th year as head women’s volleyball coach at Morgan State University and I feel honored, blessed, excited, nervous and grateful. It’s interesting that it’s others, who remind me how long I have been coaching, but for me, I see another day, and opportunity of watching young student-athletes grow to be women.
In my distant past I had always prided myself on the fact that I had a passion for helping to develop young people, which I didn’t think it would be through coaching volleyball. With a great deal of hard work, successes and disappointments, it culminated in the start of new career doing something that I love.
When Leonard Braxton, former Director of Athletics, asked me to coach, I don’t recall giving a ‘YES’ answer right away because I never thought about coaching. He told me I could do it. I served as captain for Morgan State in my last year, which to me at the time had nothing to do with coaching.
Being the person I am, I always liked to challenge myself. I saw this as another opportunity to challenge myself and I had the chance to work with young people, although I was young myself.
Of course starting out, I tried to remember what I learned from my high school Coach Linda Jones. So, practice was modeled around what I did in high school (Oak Park located in northern part of Kansas City, Mo.) and I took on her temperament. She was tough and expected only the best from each of us.
I didn’t get it all right, despite my inadequacies there were and have been so many success stories. Although I am particularly doubtful as to how many of those were as consequence of my support, and not just down to the individuals own focus and determination.
Nevertheless, I got to experience the joy of watching people develop, stretch themselves, and progress. I found myself wanting to be of so much more use than I was, and determined to develop my skills, watch other coaches in different sports, read sports coaching articles, magazines and listen to the young people I was working with.
Starting out with having some individual success as a student-athlete, I expected to win at coaching and at the start we did not. As a determined, motivated and confident individual, I wanted to see the Morgan State volleyball program become a powerhouse in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC). I rolled up my sleeves, while working a full-time job outside of the University and I prided myself to not complain about what we didn’t have, but use what we had to good use.
I think the ‘97 championship has to be the most special one, because it was that season which gave an HBCU team an opportunity to go to the NCAA Tournament. So it wasn’t just about winning, but it was about winning and getting a chance to go on to the next dance, which was an opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament. Just to think about that particular team that year and the year before, is that on paper no one would have ever said we were suppose to win. Back then, North Carolina A&T had a very strong squad and it was so much talk about them and the type of team they had and for us to pull it out two years in a row, that was real special.
I think it definitely made it a lot easier to recruit during that span of 88 consecutive wins. Howard never seemed like they had to work really hard to get a recruit. There were multiple times where it was between Morgan and Howard. A few times we lost out and there are a couple of times we ended up getting a kid. We had the same issues with Morgan and North Carolina A&T, but it was at a point now that people were taking Morgan a little more serious. I felt like we had some good academic programs to offer, so it was definitely a lot easier in terms of recruiting. Some of the kids we had on the team actually helped recruit some of the kids that came thereafter. They were great ambassadors for the school. So when we did get someone here, we generally got them to sign. So the winning definitely helped.
This season, I’m not only celebrating my 30th year as the head coach, but Morgan State, my alma mater, celebrates 150 years. What else is historical about this season, is that it marks the 25th year of the ‘1-2, M-S-U’ cheer. That cheer, which is heard prior to the start of every match, was created by the 1992 team. They will be celebrating their 25-year anniversary and will be honored during homecoming weekend (Oct. 14-15), as Morgan’s first MEAC volleyball champion.”