Lions face tough home test against Truman

Cody Dyer

After suffering two disappointing conferences losses last week to begin play in the MIAA, the Missouri Southern volleyball Lions are going back to basics.

“We are focusing on our team’s performance and what we can do to put pressure on the opposition,” said Head Coach Chris Willis. “We’ve sped things up in practice and asked each player to give more mental and physical effort.”

The Lions return home at 7 p.m. today to take on Truman State University after traveling to Northwest Missouri on Tuesday.

“We know they’ll bring a team that plays outstanding defense and can side out with anyone,” said Willis of Truman. “You can’t give them the lead and expect to just catch up. They don’t make many errors.”

Truman is off to one of the best starts in recent history, including successive wins in conference play.

Offensively, the Lions struggled in the MIAA opener against Nebraska-Omaha, hitting .029 in the first set and .017 in the second set against the Mavericks.

In order to get back on track, the Lions’ outside hitters have been working hard to get better looks.

The only way we can do that is to establish our middle and right side attack,” Willis said, “and force the other team to defend the entire net.”

Which is exactly what the Lions had trouble with against Nebraska-Omaha.

“We knew from the start that if we couldn’t slow down their middle hitters, we were going to have some troubles,” Willis said. “The two UNO middles [Ellen Thommes and Lizzy Mach] combined for 19 kills and six blocks. This, in turn, opened up options for [Nebraska-Omaha’s] outside hitters, who also did a very nice job.”

Jennies, who are always tough, dropped the Lions to 0-2 in the conference on Friday, Sept. 19 at home.

Their [the Jennies] coaching staff is probably doing the best job I’ve seen in the last five years,” Willis said. “They are getting more out of their talent than anyone else in the MIAA.

Willis attributed great ball control and just enough terminators at the net led to the Jennies’ success, and he wants to see the Lions learn from it.

“Frankly, it’s a team thing at this point,” Willis said. “Volleyball is one of the greatest team sports around. We have to ask everyone to step up and play a few points better. If we get a few points better from everyone, the winning will take care of itself.

“It [has been] a disappointing opening to the conference, but what matters is how we handle the next few matches.”