A WALK WITH A HAWK ... FEATURING: NDIDI IBE
Feb. 17, 2012
PRINCESS ANNE, Md. - The University of Maryland Eastern Shore athletics program has been blessed with many successful student-athletes throughout its 125 year history. It's a place where diversity can thrive; one where student-athletes can share difference and compete together. UMES has been able to secure a plethora of talent during this time, many from transfer athletes looking for a new beginning.
No other may be as satisfied with their transfer as junior volleyball player, Ndidi Ibe.
Her journey to Princess Anne is one that saw several different routes; one that started in the Midwest, made its way to the heart of Texas and featured time at one of the United States' premier institutions.
She knew UMES was the right place.
It stole her heart from the very beginning.
"There was something about UMES that just seemed right," said Ibe. "I absolutely love it here and I know I made the right decision. I've never been happier."
Ibe was born in Flint, Mich., before moving to North Richland Hills, Texas as a youngster. As a child, she became involved in ballet and spent time with jazz, tap and modern dance. The 6'0 junior began playing volleyball in her early years, but grew up as a phenomenal track & field athlete as well.
At Forth Worth Christian School, she garnered first-team All-District, academic All-State and honorable mention All-State in volleyball as a senior. She was also named the 100-meter dash state champion and was tabbed as the Most Valuable Player on the track & field team. Aside from being a dual threat in competition, she was also a member of the National Honor Society.
Her success on the athletic fields was impressive, but it was her ability to overcome challenges along the way that make her standout.
"During high school, in the regular and club seasons, most of my coaches discriminated against me and never gave me a fair chance at competing," said Ibe. "I've had coaches humiliate me during games and tell me that I would be lucky to play volleyball at any level. I've been told to give up many times."
The ability to push and fight through adversity certainly distinguishes this young woman.
Upon graduation, "DiDi" was recruited heavily by several noteworthy schools including Texas Christian, Purdue and Cornell. She ended up taking an appointment at the United States Naval Academy after being nominated by Vice President, Joseph Biden.
She spent two years with the Midshipmen and played in 50 matches and 156 games. As a freshman, she posted double-digit kill totals twice and had 24 digs and 10 blocks. Her solid effort continued into her sophomore season, where she recorded 174 kills, 96 blocks and 16 digs. She was also a National Society of Collegiate Scholars member at Navy.
Although not knowing it at the time, it was Ibe's effort in a match against UMES that was ultimately the most important experience of her Navy career. She finished the game with a career-high 14 kills and eight blocks.
It was an effort that bettered any of her other games that season; one that even trumped her decisive effort against Army that gave Navy its first victory over its rival in five years.
The game was one that Head Coach Don Metil certainly never forgot.
"Well, we played against UMES in a tournament during my sophomore season," explained Ibe. "It was my best game that season but we ended up losing. When Coach Metil found out that I was leaving the Academy, he immediately called me and within a few days, I was on a plane to UMES. I was looking at three other schools, but something about UMES just seemed right."
Fast forward to the present and it was her efforts that paced UMES to a 24-7 record and its first ever Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title. This past season, the Hawks went to an NCAA Tournament first-round game for the first time and much of it was because of the effort of Ibe, who led the squad with 113 blocks.
Ibe, who aspires to be a lawyer and OBGYN, played in every game with the Hawks in her first season as a transfer and led the teams in blocks-per-set (0.98). She also stood fourth in kills (171) and kills-per-set (1.49). She led the team with six blocks in the MEAC title game against Florida A&M.
With its first MEAC title intact, there is much evidence that the team's success will continue into the future.
With a core of solid players returning, UMES looks to be one of the top teams on the East Coast next year. The fact that the Hawks secured a title in Ibe's first year is fantastic; a reward for a player who deserves the highest of accolades after overcoming such adversity.
It's been her ability to learn from the past that has helped her get to where she is.
The level-headed athlete has had to "dig" deep, "block" adversity, and "kill" negativity.
"I was able to take all of these negative attitudes and criticism's in my life and use them as motivation," offered Ibe. "They have all worked together to help me attain the successes that I have now."
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