Ahakuelo signs to play volleyball with Delaware State

apWINCHESTER — One of the biggest contributors to the first two state titles in James Wood volleyball history is now the first member of those teams to earn a full scholarship to play volleyball in college.

Paige Ahakuelo will continue her setting skills for NCAA Division I Delaware State University of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference next year after signing during a ceremony on Tuesday night at James Wood High School.

“I’ve been wanting to play [in college] ever since I was a little kid,” said the 5-foot-7 Ahakuelo during an interview at James Wood on Monday. “It’s just like a dream come true. I’m really excited to go.”

Also an opposite hitter for the Colonels, Ahakuelo was selected to the First Team for the Virginia High School League Class 4, Region 4D and Class 4 Northwestern District this year. Ahakuelo ranked fifth in the area in assists (309), tied for sixth in aces (60), tied for seventh in kills (169) and was ninth in digs (190) to help James Wood repeat as Class 4 state champions with a 27-2 record.

Ahakuelo joins a Delaware State team that went 17-13 overall and 9-5 in conference play to place third in the eight-team MEAC in its first season under head coach David Brooks. The Hornets — whose season ended in the MEAC semifinals — are two seasons removed from their first-ever NCAA Tournament berth.

Ahakuelo plays for the Paramount Volleyball Club in Manassas, and the wheels were set in motion for Ahakuelo’s eventual signing with Delaware State as a result of the team’s participation in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Phenom Showcase in Tampa, Fla. Amanda Walker — the head coach of NCAA Division II Virginia State University — watched Ahakuelo play there and recommended to her friend Brooks that he give Ahakuelo a look.

Brooks called Ahakuelo on Jan. 3, then watched her play online from Jan. 12-14 in the Windy City Qualifier Tournament in Schaumburg, Ill. On Jan. 17, Brooks called and offered Ahakuelo a full scholarship.

“He expressed how he really liked how I played,” Ahakuelo said. “He’s really nice. I love him so much. I’m really excited about playing for him and assistant Coach Victoria Wilform.”

Naturally, Ahakuelo wanted to visit Dover, Del., before making a commitment. Ahakuelo made her official visit on Feb. 9, and enjoyed the trip immensely.

“Everyone was super nice there,” Ahakuelo said. “The facilities are really nice. It’s not too big and not too small. It’s the perfect place for me.”

Ahakuelo gave her verbal commitment to Delaware State a week later. She chose the Hornets over Virginia Tech, which had been recruiting Ahakuelo for two years, and Morgan State, another MEAC school, which had been recruiting her for six months. Both schools offered her preferred walk-on spots.

Ahakuelo will study mass communications at Delaware State.

In November, James Wood coach Adrienne Patrick expressed just how much she appreciated Ahakuelo as a player, and as a person.

“She has a phenomenal way of getting to the ball by reading where it’s going to go, and she has a very, very calm and consistent tempo,” Patrick said. “For a setter, that’s very important.

“I think she is a great friend to her teammates. She is willing to push her teammates, and give them feedback. The majority of the team super respects that, because they see that competitiveness from her. I look at that as leadership. They kind of feed off that and appreciate that and want that on the court with them.”

— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at
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