Volleyball Lions just miss playoffs

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Willie Brown

Rachel Olinyk and Elin Skei jump to block a ball in the Nov. 12 game against Southwest Baptist.

Jeff Pinnell / Staff Writer

The season did not end as planned for the Missouri Southern Women’s Volleyball team. The Lions lost two out of their last three matches which inevitably left them out of the playoffs.

 

The Lions went into the final week of the season as the ninth ranked team in the Division II South Central Rankings, with the top eight teams making the National Tournament.

 

Southern started off the week with a rocky with a 3-2 loss to rival Pittsburg State on Wednesday, but had a chance to rebound on Friday against Southwest Baptist.

 

“Our players determined what would happen,” said Lion’s Coach Chris Willis. “Our girls tried hard, but we just didn’t execute at the right times.”

 

The Lions would go on to fall to Southwest Baptist 3-2 on Saturday, but come away with a 3-1 victory over Northwest Missouri to still have a glimmer of hope for a playoff berth.

 

“With the way the committee ranked teams, we thought we had a small chance,” Willis said of his team’s chances of making the postseason. “By not beating SBU and Pitt, if we would have won those two matches we would have given ourselves a good chance to get in. It would have been hard to turn away a team with 20 wins and with all of the quality wins we had this year.”

 

The Lions inability to win the crucial match cost them a chance at the postseason, but even though 2010 ended in disappointment Willis still feels it was a successful season.

 

“We made quite a few improvements. We fell short of our end goals, but I think we have a good foundation to build on,” he said. “Looking at the injuries we have had this year, at times we only had a half a girl out there. We had some things that kind of hamstrung us, but I am proud of what our kids accomplished.”

 

Southern finished the season 18-14 and 8-12 in the MIAA. The 18 victories are the most for the Lions since 2006 when the team finished 23-12.

 

The Lions now look to next season, and they will have a tough task ahead of them as they will have to replace key players Ashlee Russell (led the Lions offensively hitting .293, 2.89 kills per game and 2.22 digs per game) and Amelia Judge (.304 with 2.04 kills per game and led the MIAA with 1.07 blocks per game).

 

“You don’t replace those kinds of kids,” Willis said. “We are going to be a very different team next year. With the emergence of Haley (Martin) and getting Renee Rheinecker back (hampered all year with injuries), who was an all conference player in 2009; we may move some players around. We have several different options with what we could do.”

The Lions also lose other contributing members including Brittany Vavao-Huggins, Cassie Prewitt, and Jeanna Feldmann.

 

“Overall I’m happy,” Willis said of this year’s campaign. “We improved our winning percentage, number of wins by almost 50%, we are just a better team. Thinks are looking positive for the future.”