A Jewel at Jackson State

Sapphire Simpson commits to Jackson State for volleyball


Senior Sapphire Simpson’s older sister, Diamond, and her mother both played volleyball.  So, at the age of seven, Sapphire rolled right into the family tradition.

Simpson’s mom helped push her to where she found herself on April 7, 2016: verbally committing to play volleyball at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi on the day she turned 17.

“It was amazing,” Simpson said. “It honestly made my birthday 10 times better.”

The verbal commitment was just the first step. Simpson officially committed to Jackson State on Nov. 10, 2016.

The Tigers’ head coach, Rose Washington, helped influence Simpson’s choice as she weighed the merits of playing Division I volleyball.

Washington grew up on the island of St. Croix, close to Jamaica, where Simpson’s mom grew up. Simpson considers her mother’s Jamaican culture a strong influence and a way in which she could instantly relate to Washington.

“She understands my culture and where I came from,” Simpson said. “Having a coach like that is great to work with.”

Washington saw Simpson play with her club volleyball team, KPVA, at the Big South tournament in April 2016 and sent Simpson an email that night telling her she wanted Simpson to be a Tiger.

“I’m very particular about setters,” Washington said. “They are like the quarterback of the team, and they’re the key component, in my opinion, for a volleyball team.”

Jackson State won the Southwestern Athletic Conference in 2015 but struggled in 2016, which Washington hopes Simpson can help remedy during the 2017 season.

Jackson State volleyball head coach Rose Washington hopes that Sapphire’s recruiting class, which includes international transfers, will help the program rebound from an injury-plagued 2016 season. “I’ve been blessed, we’ve got a wide range of kids coming in, just a good core, and hopefully the opposite of what we experienced last year,” Washington said.

“[Sapphire] is a wonderful addition to our program, and the thing I like about [her] is she’s a freshman and having the opportunity to have her for four years in that position to create stability is vital,” Washington said.

As a junior, Simpson played on the Decatur team that made it to the state semifinals.

“It opened my eyes to how well we did and how well we work together,” Simpson said. “I hope when I go to college it’s just like that, [where] I like my players and I grow with them, especially in the top division.”

At Decatur, Simpson completed dual enrollment at DeVry University.  Simpson’s academic focus is yet another reason why Washington is looking forward to having her on the team next year.
“All [of] that transcends on the court, so I’m equally happy about that because it’s always good to have your student-athletes that keep that focus,” Washington said.