Joplin, Mo. -- The Missouri Southern volleyball team sent its seniors out in style, defeating visiting Northwest Missouri, 3-1 in front of more than 400 fans at Young Gymnasium. Individual set scores were 25-22, 22-25, 25-22 and 25-19.
Southern (18-14, 8-12 MIAA) was led offensively by Ashlee Russell as the senior had 12 kills, eight digs, and three blocks, while hitting .320. Amelia Judge had ten kills, two digs and three blocks, while Rachel Olinyk had 10 kills, a .409 attack average and eight blocks. Daphne Merrick and Elin Skei had 27 and 14 assists, respectively, while Shakila Balkhi and Kristin Hilton added 23 and 13 digs each.
Northwest (15-14, 11-9 MIAA) had four with double-figure digs, led by 12 each from Alex Hanna and Sara Falcone.
The first set featured ten tied scores and four lead changes, but the Lions took control on a kill from Judge that made the score 21-20. Southern would score four of the next six points to take the set. Set two was tied just once and the lead changed hands once, as well, as after the Lions had commanding leads of 10-5 and 16-9, Northwest fought back to tie the set at 19 and eventually win out.
The Lions led for most of the third set, but after Northwest went ahead 20-19, Southern tied the match at 20, 21 and 22, before scoring three in a row to end the set. The Lions led from start to finish in the finale to take the match.
This match was the final home match for five Lions seniors as Russel, Judge, Jeanna Feldmann, Cassie Prewitt and Brittany Vavao-Huggins played their final match in Young. Both Vavao-Huggins and Judge rank amongst the best blockers all-time in Southern history, while Russell and Feldmann went over 1,000 in kills and digs, respectively.
Southern entered this week as the ninth-ranked team in the NCAA Division II South Central Regional poll and the top eight teams are invited to the regional Tournament. The Lions will now wait to see if they receive an invite to extend their season. If not, the Lions finish with an 18-14 overall record and the most wins in a season since 2006 when Southern went 23-12 and played in a regional tournament.