Willis ‘thrilled’ with 2006

Leigh Bishop

With the 2006 season over, head volleyball coach Chris Willis is looking to the future.

“We have signed three young ladies: Amelia Judge from McAlester High School in Oklahoma; Brittany Vavao-Huggins from Fayetteville High School; Jeanna Felton from St. Francis in Washington, Mo.,” Willis said Wednesday.

Judge is coming from a McAlester squad that was this year’s Oklahoma state champions. Vavao-Huggins’ volleyball team reached the final four of the its state tournament and she was also a part of the Ozark Volleyball Academy.

While Willis says his freshmen will add depth to the team, he said he’s counting on returning players to fill the holes this season created.

“Every year you have holes,” he said. “You depend on the returning players to fill the holes, not the incoming freshmen.”

This season’s roster has one redshirt freshman, four freshmen, five sophomores, four juniors and three seniors. Of the 14 players that aren’t seniors, Willis doesn’t anticipate any losses.

“I expect to have all the returning players back next year,” Willis said. “I expect no major change in the roster.”

The three seniors the Lions will have to be without next season are Megan Norman, Ashley Mehrer, and Tessa Woods.

“My favorite memory of this season was on Senior Night,” Mehrer said. “The entire team ran toward each other into a huge group hug; it was like hugging my big family. I was so happy, but sad at the same time.

“I will never be an immediate part of the family again, just more like a distant cousin who comes to visit every now and then, just kidding, but really, I love this team and consider them like family.”

The Lions record for this season was 23-12 overall and 7-6 in the MIAA. The record was good for second place in the MIAA West and a bid to the NCAA tournament.

Willis said he is pleased with those numbers.

“I’m thrilled with the results this season,” he said. “We met a few goals we set for ourselves. You always want to win more; every match you lose, you always are disappointed. We stayed in the moment and worked hard for what we’ve gotten.

“I don’t regret a thing that happened this season. I couldn’t be more proud.”

Next season will be Willis’ third season with the Lions. In his first two, Willis has built a record of 34-34 overall and 10-19 in the MIAA.