DALLAS – After a great weekend down in Boca Raton, Marshall volleyball junior middle blocker Essence Clerkley was named Conference USA Defensive Player of the Week, the league office announced on Monday. Clerkley totaled 13 blocks in two sweeps over the Florida Atlantic Owls.
It is her first weekly award as a member of the Thundering Herd.
“Essence has been a key player in our gym this fall day in and day out,” Herd head coach Ari Aganus said. “She brings an energy and passion for the game that is unmatched. Her blocking has been a staple of her game, with her reading skills and quickness from pin to pin she’s hard to get a swing passed.”
Clerkley, who starred for two years at Blinn College in Texas before transferring to Marshall this season, stepped into the lineup and provided a tremendous defensive spark for the Herd against the Owls. In the Friday match, Clerkley led the way with a career-high nine total blocks as Marshall finished with 14 team blocks. The Palestine, Texas native tallied three blocks in the first set and had four more in the third as the Herd put the Owls away in three sets. Clerkley teamed up with freshman Brynn Brown on a block for the final point of the match. She added five kills and hit .375 on offense, and accounted for a career-best 9.5 points.
On Saturday, Clerkley recorded four more blocks, two solo, all coming in the first set against the Owls. Florida Atlantic had to adjust its attack to try and get away from Clerkley’s reach. In the first set, a block from Clerkley and Brown led to a FAU timeout. Then Clerkley added another block immediately following the break as Marshall led 12-8. She also had three kills, a season-high five digs, one assist and an ace as Marshall finished off the back-to-back sweeps. Clerkley’s ability to shift side-to-side at the net and team up with her teammates helped make it a lot more difficult for Florida Atlantic at the net.
Marshall’s defense forced 30 attack errors by FAU in the first match and held the Owls to a team hitting percentage of .068, Florida Atlantic’s second-lowest of the season, and a season-best for the Herd defensively. On Saturday, Marshall’s defense tallied nine team blocks and forced 23 more attack errors and held the Owls to a .085 team hitting percentage.
The Herd is tied with (RV) Maryland for the NCAA lead in total blocks with 201. Clerkley is currently fourth on the team in total blocks with 45, but she is third in blocks per set with 0.92.
Clerkley helped lead the Blinn College Buccaneers to an overall record of 56-11 during her two seasons and was named the 2019 Region XIV Freshman of the Year. She was also honored as the 2019 Week 4 NJCAA Division I Tachikara Offensive Player of the Week and the Sports Imports AVCA Two-Year College Player of the Week. During her career, she finished with 204 total blocks at an average of 0.95 per set. Offensively, Clerkley tallied 594 kills and hit .367 as she helped lead the Buccaneers to a fifth place finish at the NJCAA National Tournament in the spring of 2021.
Marshall returns to the court on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 15-16, against the Old Dominion Monarchs in the Cam Henderson Center. Friday’s match is set for 6 p.m. and Saturday is scheduled for 1 p.m.
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