The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


August 28, 2012

Young MSSU volleyball team opens season on Friday

Missouri Southern has more than a lot of new faces on its volleyball roster this season.

“Lot of new players, lot of talent, good hard-working kids,” Lions coach Trish Knight said. “The only thing we’ve had in preseason we had two sprained ankles to starters early. It really slowed us down.

“We have everybody back (from those injuries). We’re just a week behind (practice could not start until one week before classes began) than what we need to be. A lot of people started a week before us.”

The Lions open their season this weekend in the Pittsburg State Invitational. They play Illinois-Springfield at 1:30 p.m. Friday and Rockhurst at 5. On Saturday the Lions face William Jewell at 9 a.m. and Harding at 2 p.m.

“I want to see what these kids can do,” Knight said. “I’m tired of doing practice, too. I want to see what they can do. I like these kids.”

Knight, beginning her second year at MSSU, believes she has more talent this season than last year’s club that went 5-25 overall and 3-15 in MIAA play.

“I think we’re more athletic, we’re more coachable, we work harder,” Knight said. “There are a lot of good differences. The only problem we have is we’re just young and everybody is learning a new system. It may take us a little while — it may be next year — before this team is really good.”

How young? Of the 12 players available this weekend, half of them are freshmen, and three freshmen will be in the starting lineup.

“But we’ll just see,” Knight said. If we don’t get beat up too early because we’re young and keep their enthusiasm and not get beat down to where their confidence goes, I think we’ll be OK.”

Middle hitters Callie Whetstone and Payton Graves and setter Abby Finder are the three freshmen in the lineup. Junior Sydney Potts, last year’s setter who averaged almost nine assists per set, has been moved to libero because Shakila Balkhi continued to have knee problems after missing last season. Potts was second on the team a year ago with 2.09 digs per set.

Sophomore Katie Politte, who was third last year with 2.24 kills per set and 43 total blocks, and Nai Montano, from Venezuela and a transfer from Independence (Kan.) Community College, are the outside hitters, and sophomore Danielle Severns, who averaged 1.07 kills per set, is the right side hitter.

“We’re really quick,” Knight said. “I haven’t had this many quick athletes in a long time ... Division I level quickness. And I like that because I like running a speedy defense and speedy attack. That’s really hard for kids right out of high school to speed the game up that much. That’s going to be the biggest challenge, other than just being young.”

The Lions begin the season with 12 available players.

Ashlynn Meredith, sophomore defensive specialist who prepped at Aurora, will be redshirting this season after transferring from Evangel.

Katie Collins, junior defensive specialist, is sidelined with a back injury and might miss the entire season, Knight said.

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