HEAD COACH RAMONA RILEY-BOZIER
Entering her 32nd season at the helm of the Lady Bears’ program, head coach Ramona Riley-Bozier has come to define Morgan State volleyball. Coach Riley-Bozier is easily one of the most decorated coaches in the history of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and is one of the most accomplished coaches in any sport in the history of Morgan State athletics.
Riley-Bozier, who is also the winningest coach at MSU (454), picked up milestone victory No. 400, following a 3-1 road win at Delaware State on Nov. 3, 2013 and career victory No. 450 on the road last season with a 3-1 defeat of Norfolk State on Sept. 30, 2018.
The 2019 season will be one of Riley-Bozier’s deepest and most talented teams in quite some time. Despite losing four senior’s from a year ago, the 2019 Lady Bears’ team will feature 12 letterwinners – including two seniors, four juniors and six sophomores, including 2018 MEAC Rookie Team selection, Zoe McBride.
Morgan State finished last season with a 13-15 overall mark. But once it got in MEAC play, it would be a tale of two halves for the Lady Bears. Morgan State would start out going 4-1 and was sitting in second-place in the league standings at the midway point. However, the squad would go just 1-4 during the second half stretch and fell to fourth in the northern division standings at 5-5, entering the league tournament.
Securing its fifth straight MEAC tournament appearance, Morgan State would face nemesis Florida A&M, the No. 1 seed out of the southern division in the quarterfinal round. The Lady Bears would give the Rattlers all they could handle, as Morgan State won the opening set and held a 2-1 lead after three sets played. But FAMU would hold off the Lady Bears, forcing a fifth set and thus ending their season with a 3-2 loss.
Riley-Bozier entered the 2017 campaign ranked 43rd in career victories (433) on the NCAA list of active coaches. The team would finish 8-18 with a 7-5 MEAC record and reached the MEAC quarterfinal, falling to FAMU in four sets.
The Lady Bears put together a 9-3 MEAC record to go with a 13-15 overall campaign in 2015. Morgan State would finish as the No. 2 seed in the northern division and defeated North Carolina A&T in three sets in a quarterfinal match, before falling to Bethune-Cookman in three sets in the semifinals.
Morgan State returned to the league’s tournament in 2014, after a two-year hiatus. The Lady Bears would go 13-13, 6-6 in the MEAC that year and would face Florida A&M in the quarterfinal round, falling to the top seeded Rattlers in five sets.
Despite finishing the 2013 season with a 12-13 overall mark and 7-5 record in the MEAC North Division, while earning victories over the top-three teams in the division, including a late season sweep of eventual champion Hampton, the Lady Bears failed to reach the conference’s postseason tournament.
The 2012 Morgan State recorded a 5-21 overall record and went 4-8 in MEAC play finishing fifth, just missing out on the fourth and final spot for the league championship tournament.
Just a year earlier the 2011 squad appeared to be heading in the right direction, as they finished in second-place in the MEAC North Division with an 8-4 mark, while going 10-19 overall. Riley-Bozier would also earn her 375th victory with a 3-2 win over Providence on Aug. 26, 2011. The team’s performance that season would be an improvement from the 2010 team, which finished 6-20 overall, 4-6 in the MEAC.
The Lady Bears finished the 2009 campaign with a 9-22 overall mark and a 4-6 MEAC North record. Morgan State finished in a three-way tie for third-place in conference play and earned the No. 3 seed in the North at the MEAC championship tournament. The nine wins and return trip to the conference tournament was a far cry from a 3-25, 2-8 MEAC record in 2008, which ended in Morgan State failing to reach the tournament for the first time in school history.
The 2007 season didn’t go quit as planned, as the Lady Bears dropped their first 12 matches before winning eight of their next 10 matches. Morgan State would finish the season with an 11-17 overall mark and a second-place finish in the MEAC North Division at 7-3. Despite a disappointing season, Bozier totaled her 350th career victory with a 3-0 home victory over Hampton on Oct. 15, 2007.
In 2006, Bozier guided the Lady Bears to an impressive 23-9 overall mark, including a 9-1 MEAC slate and a runner-up finish in the title match, while earning her fifth MEAC Coach of the Year honor. The 23 wins rank fourth on the charts and was the program’s 10th 20-win season.
Coach Bozier, whose favorite quote is “Just Do It,” continues to carry the same drive, passion and competitive spirit into this season that she’s had since she came to MSU as a student-athlete in the 80s.
Coach Bozier is determined to get the best out of her student-athletes both in the classroom and on the volleyball court. She is the kind of coach who genuinely cares about the overall development of the person, not just the development of the volleyball player. She cares as much and more about how well an athlete is doing in the classroom as she does about how well that athlete may be performing on the volleyball court.
Bozier is tough, but fair. She demands a commitment, but doesn’t forget it’s important to have fun. But above and beyond anything else, Bozier believes in team. Coach Bozier has always felt that the program can only prosper if each member of the team contributes. That team concept starts with the coach and filters through every player on the squad.
Her 450-plus wins, five MEAC Championships, three NCAA Tournament appearances and five MEAC Coach of the Year honors only begin to tell the story of Coach Bozier.
In 1988 she got a call from former Director of Athletics Leonard Braxton, asking if she would be interested in coaching the volleyball team. She agreed to come aboard but inherited a volleyball program that was struggling. MSU volleyball was not only one of the worst teams in the MEAC, but the Lady Bears had become one of the lower rated programs in the nation.
The ship needed a captain to turn things around and that captain would have to do it with minimal resources. Coach Bozier knew it was not going to be easy, but she also knew she could do it. Bozier went to work focused on transforming Morgan State volleyball into a powerhouse program. It didn’t take long for the “Mona Magic” to begin reaping results. Those results have been nothing less than stunning.
Morgan State captured its first MEAC crown in 1992. That was followed by championships in 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000. (The Lady Bears were awarded the 1999 title after the MEAC rescinded Florida A&M’s championship in the wake of NCAA violations).
The 1997 championship team was a history making contingent. After capturing the conference crown, they went on to defeat Grambling State in an NCAA Play-In match. That victory earned the Lady Bears the distinction of becoming the first Historically Black College or University to earn a trip to the NCAA Division I Tournament.
When the Lady Bears stepped on the floor on December 8, 1997, in Los Angeles, Calif., to take on USC, they not only made history, but they also made Morgan proud. Morgan State pushed the nationally ranked “Women of Troy” in an inspiring performance before falling to what was the 8th ranked team in the nation.
Coach Bozier is not comfortable with resting on laurels. While she was proud of what her team accomplished in ‘97, she wanted to continue to push the program to higher limits. The Lady Bears went on to collect MEAC titles in both ‘98 and 2000 and represented the MEAC in the NCAA Tournament on both occasions.
The Lady Bears have been a particularly dominant force in the MEAC’s North Division. Morgan State won 88 consecutive MEAC North Division matches between 1994 and 2003. The string was broken when MSU suffered two defeats to the Lady Hawks of the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore during the 2003 campaign.
Coach Riley-Bozier has played a prominent role in the development of some exceptional volleyball talent at Morgan State. Some of the more outstanding student-athletes who have excelled under her tutelage include; Kim Wood (91-94), Kim Spotswood (91-92), Ja Nina Lee (94-98), Jakaria Stewart (94-97), Malia Price (96-97), Monica Scott (95-98) and Tiffany Pickens (95-98).
In recent years, Coach Bozier has assisted in the nurturing of All-MEAC players like; Yolanda McGirt (99-02), Tiffany Sebree (99-02), Destiny Sisk (99-02), Java Johnson (99-00), Tasha Neal (00-03) and Tiffany Oliver (01-03), who was selected to train with the A2 National Team, as well as former All-MEAC players Ashley Preston and Esther Johnson and two-time All-MEAC Tournament selection Jeniqua Moran, as well as former assistant coach and 2006 MEAC Rookie of the Year, Ivanti Bush. The addition of Natalie (Ngebui) Chafeh and Zuri Smith to the 2013 all-conference third-team, ended what was a six-year drought of having an all-conference selection. Smith and Arianna Hayden would earn All-MEAC second and third team honors in 2014, while Keanna Browne and Carmen Fernandez were selected to the second and third teams, respectively, in 2015. Last season, Zoe McBride made her mark in the conference and was named to the 2018 MEAC All-Rookie Team.
During her undergraduate day, Bozier was a two-sport star. She shined for the Lady Bears on the volleyball court and on the track. A native of Kansas City, Missouri, she came to Morgan State after transferring from the University of Missouri and made an immediate splash for MSU.
Bozier was a key component of the record setting relay teams that turned heads in the national track community. Bozier, who was a three-time All-American and a top performer in the MEAC, recorded personal-bests in the 100 meter dash (11.2) and the 200 meter dash (23.8). She became one of the top triple jumpers for Morgan with a career-best jump of 36’11 and also holds the UMBC Meet record in the 60 meter dash, which she set in 1983. That record still stands today.
Bozier ran the first leg on Morgan State’s legendary 4x100 meter relay team which in 1986 set the school record, burning up the track in a time of 44.47 seconds, which still stands today. The squad also won the Penn Relays and finished second that year at the Division I National Championships. A picture of Bozier, along with fellow teammates Rochelle Stevens, Wendy Vereen and Elthyn Tate rests at the Sports Legends Museum located at Camden Yards in Baltimore.
Her athletic gifts were not limited to the track. She was also an enormously talented volleyball player during her days at Morgan State. Bozier, who is one of only 10 volleyball players in the history of the program to have registered 1,000 career kills, was inducted into the Morgan State Hall of Fame in 2003.
In addition to her volleyball coaching responsibilities, Bozier was also the softball coach at Morgan State for seven seasons. And it’s no coincidence that she is the program’s winningest head coach in that sport too at Morgan State with 161 victories.
In 1998 Bozier guided the squad to a then school record 25 wins. That record would stand for 20 years, until last season’s 2018 team set the mark with 28 wins. In 1999 she led the Lady Bears to their only appearance in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference softball championship game.
While proud of her athletic and coaching accomplishments, Bozier is very proud to have seen her daughter, Dominique Nicole graduate in May 2011 from Morgan State with a degree in Family Consumer Sciences with a concentration in Business/Fashion Merchandising and play volleyball for her. Her son, Jeff Jr., also attended Morgan State and graduate in May 2014 with a degree in sociology.
Coach Riley-Bozier, who also received her Master’s degree in sociology from Morgan State, is a member of the Baltimore Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated and is an advisor of Fellowship of Christian Athletes. She also serves as a facilitator for Morgan CARES (University President customer service initiative program).
Bozier resides in Harford County, Md. with her husband Jeff, Sr.