Volleyball Lions crack AVCA Top 25

The Missouri Southern volleyball Lions come together during a match at the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.

Mitsumasa Misaki

The Missouri Southern volleyball Lions come together during a match at the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.

Leigh Bishop

This week, the Missouri Southern Lions volleyball team broke into the American Volleyball Coaches Association Division II Top 25, landing the final spot.

Southern’s record stands at 19-2 – the second best start in school history – and is in second place in the MIAA West with a 4-1 mark.

“This isn’t the best thing that we will do all season,” said head coach Chris Willis before the team’s Sept. 26 practice. “We don’t want to get all giddy about this.

“We don’t want to fall off.”

Sophomore Cherie Baugh and junior Sarah Hoffmeister echoed Willis’ advice.

“It doesn’t really mean anything; we can’t get too confident,” Baugh said.

“We never set the goal to make the ranking; we didn’t expect it. It really is a testament to our hard work,” Hoffmeister said.

In addition to the team climbing into the national rankings, senior Tessa Woods was named Wilson/MIAA Player of the Week.

“It’s all about the team,” Willis said.

Woods averaged 5.20 points per game and hit .455 (65 kills, 10 errors, 121 attempts) as the Lions climbed to 18-2.

During the team’s Sept. 22 win over Pittsburg State, Woods hit .577 (17-2-26) and scored 20.5 points (17 kills, 7 block assists), and had two digs. During the win against Southwest Baptist on Sept. 19, she scored 29 points (26 kills, 1 block solo, 4 block assists) and hit .396 (26-5-53) with six digs and three assists.

On Sept. 23, she hit .526 (11-1-19) and added five block assists for 13.5 points against Harding (Ark.) University, then hit .391 (11-2-23), scoring 15 points against Drury.

Despite Woods’ personal accomplishments, Willis insists “it’s all about the team.”

Oct. 6, the Lions will be traveling to Kirksville, to play the Truman State University Bulldogs whose current record is 16-1.

“They’re fourth [in NCAA Division II] so it will be great competition,” Baugh said. “It’s going to be a good challenge.”

Oct. 7, the Lions will travel to St. Joseph to play Missouri Western State University, whose record is currently 10-7.

“If we stick to the game plan, controlling our own game on our side of the net, we can face anybody,” Hoffmeister said.