Heading into the City University of New York Athletic Conference (CUNYAC) Volleyball Championship next Monday, Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) is looking to dominate. The Panthers have already secured the CUNYAC regular season title by going an undefeated 8–0 in conference play. Leading the team to success is first-year head coach, Nia Bell.

Growing up, Bell’s mother, Dr. Linda J. Bell, worked as a volleyball coach and then in athletic administration. When her mother coached, Bell often trained with the team. She spent time in the Northeast visiting her grandparents, and decided she wanted to try out New York City. “I’ve always been a country girl…so I wanted to experience something else,” said Bell, 25.

She held two assistant coaching positions prior to BMCC. “I’m very passionate about coaching and passionate about the sport in general,” Bell said. “I really wanted to share my story with younger girls and help them.”

Bell is inspired by the camaraderie on the BMCC team. Despite the many demands on the players’ time, including jobs and family obligations, they make time to be together. “Sometimes it’s hard for teams to have that bond. I love the great energy that they have and being positive about playing together,” she said.

She encourages her players to go for what they want on the court and in life with gusto just as she’s going for her goals. “I want this experience to help them in their futures,” Bell said. “I know that a lot of them want to go on to four-year schools, so I’m showing them what it is to be at a four-year and be a student-athlete, how much work you have to put in if you really want to play. … Some of them are not quite ready for that next level, so I’m training them for that.”

During this season BMCC has had two CUNY Player of the Week honors and four Rookie of the Week honors. Bell said sophomore outside hitter Josanne Lewis helps her teammates boost their confidence. Freshman setter Emmanuella Aurel is an all-around awesome athlete, who pushes hard in everything she does.

BMCC volleyball has been Bell’s total focus for the season. She’s been in touch with some local volleyball clubs, and she will explore club coaching once the season is done. “My biggest goal is to be CUNYAC champ,” she said. “As long as the girls improve and play to their best abilities, I’m happy.”

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