Volleyball looks to ‘experience success’ as MIAA play begins

After beginning the season 0-3, the Missouri Southern Lions volleyball team has won four of its last six matches.

“Our team is playing its best volleyball right now,” said Head Coach Chris Willis. “The girls have a lot of confidence going into conference play.”

The Lions opened up play in the MIAA against a new rival – Nebraska-Omaha – on Wednesday. This was the first time the Lions faced Nebraska-Omaha as a conference opponent.

“UNO (Nebraska-Omaha) has a long history of success,” said Willis. “They know how to win. They have a very high-powered offense.”

Now, the Lions come home at 7 p.m. today to face No. 17 Central Missouri – a perennial power in the MIAA. The Jennies, winners of six consecutive matches, wrapped up an extensive home stand on Wednesday against Southwest Baptist.

“Central Missouri is always a challenge,” said Willis. “Each year, they have a load of talent, and their coaches always prepare them well. They are one of the best programs in the country and we’ll need to be at our best to be successful.

“We can’t control or worry about what is going on with other teams. We can only control how we prepare and play.”

Last season, Willis felt his younger players weren’t ready for the intensity of MIAA play. A year later, the fifth-year coach has a lot more confidence in his younger players.

“We’ve been able to insert our young players in matches with the veterans where they can experience some success,” said Willis. “Hopefully, this will pay off for us as we continue throughout the season.

“Our serve receive has gotten better and become more consistent. This has given our offense a lot more options and made things easier on our setters.”

Even with the team’s recent success, Willis pointed out a couple of details the Lions need to improve.

We need to get better at blocking,” he said. “We’ve had some good moments, but consistency at the net is something we need to improve.”