SEMO volleyball exhibits 'mental toughness' in OVC Tournament win

Southeast Missouri State volleyball coach Julie Yankus

Southeast Missouri State volleyball coach Julie Yankus has been in her position long enough (nine years) to understand how tournaments play out.

Physical ability is an absolute must, but if you can’t match your athleticism with execution under duress, you’ll go home early.

“It is definitely going to come down to mental toughness,” Yankus said before her team’s opening match with Tennessee Tech in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament.

The No. 2-seed Redhawks were mentally strong enough to withstand a four-set victory over No. 7-seed Tennessee Tech Thursday at Jacksonville State in Gadsden, Ala. 25-11, 21-25, 25-18, 28-26.

The win advances Southeast (21-10) to the semifinals today at 3:30 p.m. against No. 3-seed Murray State (19-10).

The Racers beat No. 6-seed UT Martin 25-22, 25-20, 25-19.

In the final set, Southeast held a 17-13 advantage following an ace served by Tara Beilsmith. However, the Golden Eagles (13-17) stormed back by winning five of the next six points to tie the match at 18.

The Redhawks had Tennessee Tech on the verge of elimination at 24-22, but it battled back to take a 25-24 lead.

“We’ve done a lot of challenges all year,” Yankus said about building toughness. “We’ve worked on being resilient.”

It was needed in the set, which had 13 ties and six lead changes.

Fifth-year senior hitter Annie Wehrheim smoked a kill to tie the match at 25 but Tennessee Tech got one to jump ahead 26-25.

At that point, all of Yankus’ training throughout the past few months came through, as the Redhawks rode three consecutive Golden Eagle errors to the win.

“We’ve really shown that we can bounce back this year,” Yankus said.

The win matches the most by the program since 2012 and a victory today would be the most for the program in 19 seasons.

Senior hitter Mikayla Kuhlmann paced the Redhawks with 13 kills, while junior hitter Laney Mulloy added 11.

Mulloy also had three aces and 14 digs in the win.

Beilsmith totaled 16 digs, while Claire Ochs had 13 to go with her 43 assists.

The Redhawks dominated the Golden Eagles 12 to 4 in blocks.

Southeast beat Murray State handily 3-0 earlier this season, but history has proven irrelevant in this tournament.

Tennessee Tech had beaten Southeast 3-1 in its match earlier this season.

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