Former D-1 coach leads volleyball Lions in 2011

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Willie Brown / The Chart

Freshman Katie Politte of Washington, Mo. gestures to a teammate in a practice this week.

Jordan Larimore

Trish Knight is facing an uphill battle.

The first-year head coach at Missouri Southern takes over for widely popular Chris Willis, who left the University after last season to take the head coach job at Division-I Davidson College.

Although she is new to Southern, Knight has a good amount of experience as a collegiate head coach to her name. Most recently at Texas Tech University, she also coached at Missouri State-West Plains. At MSU-WP, Knight collected a record of 676-17-3, for a winning percentage of nearly .800.

“The neatest thing, I think, about the University that I noticed off the bat is there’s really a feel of a hometown feel,” she said. “Everybody makes you feel welcome and part of it. And when I talk to my players they feel that that was part of the reason that they decided to come here and play, because it felt like people cared about them as a person.”

Knight says her team is young, and is also dealing with “a ton” of injuries.

In 2010, Willis’ squad posted a successful 18-14 overall record, but played only .400 against MIAA opponents, finishing 8-12 in conference.

“Athletic ability,” Knight said of her team’s biggest strength. “No doubt, we’re very athletic. I think that the weakness is going to be that we’re really young, we’re going to start three to four freshmen so we’re young. But they are talented and we’ll just have to see how quickly they can adjust to a quicker game.”

Knight says her personal mantra as a coach is “do the right thing.” Her team will get their first test at home today at 3 p.m. as they open the Missouri Southern Invitational with a match against Quincy.