Volleyball breaks into MIAA win column, begins play at Pitt State Invitational today

Cody Dyer

Trying to avoid four successive conference losses, the Missouri Southern volleyball squad swept Missouri Western last Saturday to break into the win column in the MIAA.

“We are definitely glad to be back in the win column,” said Head Volleyball Coach Chris Willis.

The Lions’ first trip through conference produced a 1-4 record, but with the Pittsburg State Invitational beginning today, there’s no time to fret about the past.

“We would like to think we are getting better every day,” Willis said. “And we’ll continue to improve. The crazy thing about sports is that you never really know what’s going to happen. We’re just looking forward to another opportunity to compete.”

Southern will face three Lone Star Conference teams – Abilene Christian, West Texas A&M and Angelo State – this weekend. The Lions will host Abilene Christian at 7 p.m. today at home.

“It’s always nice to play at home,” said Willis, “Especially against a regional opponent. “We expect to do well.”

Abilene Christian, which is coming off a loss to West Texas A&M, is 12-3 this season.

“They have a very balanced team with a few players who can terminate at any time,” Willis said. “They also play very good defense. Our challenge will be to sideout at a consistent level and stop them at the net.”

Sarah Joles, Kari Hammerbacher, Elin Skei and Stefanie Williams all played a roll in the Lions’ victory over Western. Numerous players have contributed this season, and Willis is expecting this to continue.

“We expect our contributing players to execute at all times, regardless of class,” Willis said. “With that being said, the youth of our team is something that bodes well for our future.”

On Saturday, the Lions will face No. 3 West Texas A&M, which held Abilene Christian to its lowest hitting percentage of the season in a 3-0 sweep on Sept. 27.

“West Texas A&M finished in the top 10 last season, and returned almost all their starters,” said Willis. “They are as good as any of the top teams of the MIAA. The match will be a challenge for us defensively because they attack at such a high level.”

Defense has been a lingering problem for the Lions this season.

“We have been struggling defensively against the top teams,” Willis said. “Our practices have focused on serving, blocking and digging. Hopefully, we can make a few adjustments that will pay big dividends in our matches this weekend.”

Although Southern has struggled this season in conference, this weekend’s tournament will help the Lions prepare for Washburn when MIAA play resumes next week.

“We have learned that the margin between winning and losing is very thin,” Willis said. “The team that makes the plays at the critical moments usually comes away with the win. We have to recognize those moments and play our very best.”