Throughout the course of the 2019 regular season, the volleyball program at Shawnee State University has shown signs of turning a major corner.
Beginning on Thursday, the Bears have an excellent opportunity to unite as a team as the No. 7-seeded SSU volleyball program takes on No. 2-seeded Thomas More at 1:30 p.m. ET in the Mid-South Conference Tournament’s Opening Round in Bowling Green, Ky. as Shawnee State looks for a three-win week.
For Susan Shelton, the opportunity for her team to reset the tables and surprise their Mid-South Conference foes is one that the ninth-year leader of the Bears welcomes.
“We are entering the tournament with a renewed attitude,” Shelton said. “We break our season into three components: the preseason, the regular season, and the postseason. Right now, we are focused on our next match. We cannot look back at what we did prior to this week and cannot be intimidated by Thomas More. We like our chances and feel that if we play our game, this will be an exciting match.”
While the Bears fell to the Saints, their receiving votes counterparts, in straight sets on Oct. 17, Shawnee State has proven that they can play right with Thomas More as evidenced by the Bears taking the Saints to five sets back on Aug. 28 in a five-set loss (16-25, 27-25, 23-25, 25-16, 11-15) inside Waller Gymnasium.
In that contest, Macie Rhoads’ 18 kills, 12 digs, and a .200 attack percentage, along with 41 combined assists from Maria Kolinoff and Maddie Payne and heady defensive outputs from Stacia Martin (20 digs) and Alexa Ball (13 digs) proved to be vital in Shawnee State’s ability to take Thomas More to five sets. Rhoads, who has since put together team-leading marks of 453 kills and an attack percentage of .232, heads up the unit while Martin’s 651 digs, Rhoads’ 355 digs and Ball’s 277 dives head up the defensive output. Kolinoff (664 assists), Payne (137 assists), and Alissa Kefauver (237 assists) are the primary setup options for Shawnee State.
As for the Saints, Emily Mohs and Jenna Mummert, who combined for 39 kills in Thomas More’s five-set victory over Shawnee State, have been the leaders offensively for TMU. Overall, the duo have combined to post 687 kills while posting attack marks of .301 and .286, respectively, while Lizzie Schoenfield’s 553 assists have helped lead the Saints offensively.
“Thomas More is a very tough opponent,” Shelton said. “They have height, power, and are very quick. We need to follow our game plan and keep our composure. We have to stay in the match mentally if we want to even have a chance to be successful. We have shown that we can play good volleyball and win, as evidenced in our first set against Cumberland (Tenn.) last week. It is vital that we play the whole match and not let up.”
In order to come away with the victory, Shawnee State will have to play big at the net — and with Mohs and 6-1 and Mummert at 6-0, the Bears can’t afford to have a lapse in defensive concentration.
“In order to contain their players, we made some adjustments to our line up and our defense,” Shelton said. “We have been working on our net play and offensive sets. We have to be big at the net and aggressive on defense.”
Regardless of Thursday’s match, Shelton’s thoughts on her team won’t change — but a win, which would potentially set Shawnee State up for additional fruits — wouldn’t be bad, either.
“The girls have worked so hard all season,” Shelton said. “We have had our high points and low points, but have never given up. I am so proud of the progress the girls have made.”
The match winner of Thursday’s Mid-South Conference Opening Round game between the pair will face either No. 3-seeded Georgetown or No. 6-seeded Cumberlands (Ky.) in the Mid-South Conference Semifinals on Friday at 4 p.m. ET/3 p.m. CT, with the winner moving on to Saturday evening’s Mid-South Conference Championship Game at 7 p.m. ET/6 p.m. CT.
All contests will be held at Bowling Green High School in Bowling Green, Ky. and will be televised at https://portal.stretchinternet.com/midsouthconf/.
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