COLUMBIA — Cara Leis was not happy.
Two sets into Stephens College’s volleyball match against visiting Cottey College, the Stars were tied. The senior outside hitter expected more from her team, so she decided to raise the expectations for the third game.
“We are holding them to 12 points,” Leis told her team in the huddle before the start of the third game.
The Stars responded. Behind an 11-point run during Leis' serve, they won the third game 25-9, and the match, 26-24, 23-25, 25-9, 25-17. The victory moved the Stars to 5-4, which puts them only two wins away from their win total in 2009.
Leis, a leader for the Stars, said she decided to be the one to step up and challenge her team to play harder. But that doesn't make her the sole leader of the team.
"We are better than (Cottey College)," Leis said. "When we are in a rut, we need someone to motivate us. So telling everyone to hold them to 12 made them realize that we needed to hold them, and we needed to come together as a team."
The Stars screamed 'intensity' before the match started, but they started out with anything but that. They quickly found themselves in a 12-3 hole before storming back to win the first game.
After losing the second set Leis gave the challenge, and the game changed quickly. Stephens looked more energized in the third and fourth games, presumably because of Leis' challenge. Passes were better, and the team made less mental mistakes. Stars head coach Shane McAfee said he was happy with his senior's challenge to the team.
"She set a goal for the team, and that's good," McAfee said. "She is a senior, a leader, and a multisport athlete."
McAfee said he was disappointed with the team's inconsistency, but said the opportunity to work on establishing a rotation before starting conference play was good for strategy purposes.
Stephens starts conference play against Hannibal-LaGrange at 7 p.m. on Tuesday at Silverthorne Arena. The Stars will be looking to build on their first conference tournament appearance in 2009.