Volleyball staying alive, looking toward postseason play

The Missouri Southern women’s volleyball team took a step backward last week in their attempt to make a run at the National Championship tournament. The Lions lost a trio of matches, the first two to Southwest Baptist and Northwest Missouri by scores of 3-1.

Tuesday night, Southern traveled to Kansas City to face Rockhurst. The Lions fell behind two sets to none but clawed back, winning the next two, including a fourth set score of 25-15.

Next up, on Wednesday, the Lions faced No. 16 ranked UNO in Omaha. Southern took the Mavs to five sets, winning the last one for a 3-2 victory.

These games put the Lions’ record at 11-14 overall as they get closer to .500. Southern now sports a 4-7 record in conference.

“We had an opportunity to move up in fifth place but we didn’t get it done,” said volleyball Head Coach Chris Willis. “You are what your record is, and we didn’t take care of business.”

The Lions lost one of their more productive outside hitters when Ashlee Russell went down with a leg injury the week before.

“Her injury has had a pretty significant impact,” said Willis. “Ashlee is one of the glue players for us, and we are missing her leadership on the court.”

Maria Weller, 5-11 sophomore from Tulsa, Oklahoma, has taken the place of Russell on the court. So far Weller has been solid with 21 kills in the losses to SBU and Northwest Missouri.

“Maria has played well for us,” Wills said. “She has come in and put some balls away for us at the net.”

The Lions still have a chance at post season play as they have beat some tough teams, and still have six more ranked opponents on the schedule.

“We were No. 8 in the regional rankings,” Willis explained. “That shows our wins have been quality wins. Wins against some of these ranked opponents should get us back into the mix for the national tournament.”

The Lions will have their chance at one of those quality wins tonight when they host the No. 11 Central Missouri Jennies. Southern has seen the Jennies once this year falling 3-0 in Warrensburg.

“They always have a very well coached team,” said Willis. “They have terminators at all the positions, and they are so balanced that is it hard to pick out a weakness to attack. That is their strength, they do everything well.”

Central Missouri is a top the MIAA conference and is almost guaranteed a berth in the National Tournament.

The Lions will next host the No. 19 Truman Bulldogs on Oct. 30, and follow it up with a Halloween match on the Oct. 31 against Missouri Western.