Volleyball looks to improve every match

Sophomore outside hitter Sarah Hoffmeister bumps the ball during the Aug. 27 game against Henderson State University.

Sophomore outside hitter Sarah Hoffmeister bumps the ball during the Aug. 27 game against Henderson State University.

T.J. Gerlach

Coming off a 14-18 season, the Missouri Southern volleyball team is focused on improvement this year.

“We just want to play at our best level and get better every day,” said Chris Willis, head volleyball coach. “Hopefully we’re going to be a really great team in October.”

He said this year the Lions are using a different system and have new players in key positions.

“Overall I’m just impressed with the way the players have responded, bonded and the way we play as a team,” Willis said.

He said the team is trying to run everything faster this year.

“It’s not where we want it to be, but we’re getting in the direction that we need it to be,” Willis said.

“We worked really hard in the preseason,” said Sarah Hoffmeister, junior outside hitter. “And it’s paying off.”

The Lions hosted the Missouri Southern Invitational Aug. 26-27. Southern ended the tournament 3-1.

The first game the Lions played pitted them against Quincy (Ill.) University. The Lions won 3-1.

Ashley Hill, freshman outside hitter, led the team with 15 kills and 18.5 points. She was followed by Ashley Mehrer, junior middle hitter, with 13 kills and 14 points, and Hoffmeister, with 13 kills and 13.5 points.

The Lions faced the University of Central Arkansas, losing the match, 3-1.

Mehrer led the team in kills with 13 and points with 14. Hoffmeister had 10 kills and 10 points.

On Aug. 27, Southern faced the Henderson State University Lady Reddies. The Lions won the match 3-2.

Both Hill and Hoffmeister had 17 kills, but Hill led the team in points with 18.5 to Hoffmeister’s 18.

The final game of the weekend for the Lions was against the University of Missouri-St. Louis. The Lions won the match 3-0.

Hoffmeister led in kills with 12, and Mehrer earned 11 kills. Both earned 14 points.

“We can’t control winning and losing,” Willis said. “Overall, with the freshmen we have on the floor, I’m very happy with what we did.”

The Lions’ line-up this year includes no seniors.

“I think we’ll look to our upper-class leadership in Sarah Hoffmeister and Ashley Mehrer,” Willis said.

“They led us in kills all weekend, and they have the most game experience coming back.”

He said he was proud of what Hoffmeister and Mehrer have accomplished in the past three weeks.

“I think they’re going to continue to lead this team to get better and better every day,” Willis said.

Hoffmeister said she feels the pressure of being one of the team’s leaders, but she likes it.

“I think it gives you something to live up to,” she said. “You know you’ve got your role on the court.”

Filling out the roster are five sophomores and six freshmen.

Hoffmeister said the younger members of the team are ready to step into their roles.

“They know what they’ve got to do, and they’re laying it on the floor,” she said. “I’m really proud of them.”

Willis said with such a young team, the challenge this year will be to “get up” and play at the same level every night.

“We want to keep on an even keel,” he said.

He said the conference is full of unknowns this year.

“It’s going to be a dogfight,” Willis said. “I think there’s going to be some surprising wins and losses all year long. We just have to be in that mix.”

Hoffmeister said this season is going to be great for the Lions.

“We’re underrated, and I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people,” she said.

The Lions play Friday and Saturday at the SIU-Edwardsville Cougar Classic. On Tuesday, they will be in Springfield taking on Drury University.