Redhawks volleyball look to ignore more history in tournament opener
Tyler Graef ~ Southeast Missourian
The Southeast Missouri State volleyball squad has demonstrated little respect for history this season, as it has racked up accomplishment after accomplishment.
So, the fact that the Redhawks (20-10) will face a Tennessee Tech squad in the opening match of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament that they fell to 3-1 earlier this season is something to be cognizant of, but not fear in any way.
“I believe that we have improved vastly since that match,” veteran Southeast coach Julie Yankus said. “It’s been months and we have played a lot of the season since.”
The two teams will face-off today at 12:30 p.m. at Jacksonville State in Gadsden, Ala., where the league tournament will be played over the next three days.
Southeast has played 14 matches and 53 sets since that Sept. 28 road loss to the Golden Eagles and throughout the season, the Redhawks disregarded its recent history on several occasions.
Southeast battled for the OVC regular-season title until the final week of the season and matched the special 2012 season, in which the Redhawks won the OVC West Division championship, by winning 12 league games.
The Redhawks also achieved the second-highest win total (20) since that 21-win team in 2012.
“We came up a little bit short of what we could do,” Yankus said of her team’s second-place finish. “We were so close. Hopefully, we are all very locked in this week and have something to prove.”
The No. 2-seed Redhawks have something to prove to the No. 7-seed Golden Eagles (13-16).
Tennessee Tech was effective at the net throughout the first match between these two teams and Yankus knows that issue needs to be dealt with again.
“They were in system a lot,” Yankus said of that match. “They passed very well, and they were able to get the ball to their middle (hitters), who are good.”
To counter that, Yankus has some “good” players of her own at the net.
Southeast middle blocker Maggie Adams is as good of an answer to an attacking problem as any team in the OVC has.
The junior leads the league in total blocks (79), while offensively, she is first in the conference with a .352 hitting percentage and has 156 kills.
“One of the biggest things that we have turned on since that match has been the production of our middle hitters,” Yankus said. “That has been huge and will be a great part of our offense.”
Senior Krista Berns is just behind Adams with 155 kills, while right-side hitter Annie Wehrheim (249 kills), outside hitters Mikayla Kuhlmann (231) and Laney Malloy (345) have also been productive.
“That has helped us win a lot of matches,” Yankus said of her team’s hitting. “The fact that we can be well-balanced and get those middles involved.”
Southeast spends a good portion of its non-league season playing in three-day events, so this tournament – if the Redhawks keep advancing – won’t be an issue physically for Yankus’ team, but mentally it can be wearing.
“It’s definitely going to come down to mental toughness,” Yankus said. “We’ve done a lot of challenges all year. We’ve worked on being resilient and we’ve really shown we can bounce back this year.
“We have a lot of older, more experienced players leading this team both on and off the court and we’ll need to do all of the things to help us be successful.”