COLUMBIA — Arms outstretched, Megan Sheffield reached high above her head. With a perfectly timed jump, her hands met the ball right above the net. As the ball fell back to the other side, the opposing players could only watch as the ball fell to the hardwood.
Entering Thursday night's competition, Sheffield, a junior middle hitter for the Stephens volleyball team, led the American Midwest Conference with 137 blocks, 23 more than her closest competition. She is also one of only two in the conference to average more than a block per set.
"She's been a force up on the front row," Stars coach Shane McAfee said.
Whenever she or one of her teammates executes a successful block, Sheffield lets everyone know how excited she is. She turns around to her teammates with her arms stretched in the air in picture-perfect blocking technique and lets out a big scream that echos throughout the gym.
"I love to get excited about the littlest things." Sheffield said. "You never know when something little like that can spark the team."
McAfee said he enjoys Sheffield's enthusiasm for the game.
"If she does something good, you know it on the court," McAfee said. "Not too many girls come firing out of there like she does."
Sheffield did not have too much to get excited about Thursday in Stephens' match against visiting William Woods. The offense was a problem for the Stars all night long, and they were swept, 25-16, 25-13, 25-18.
Although the Stars' offense has been subpar throughout the season, Sheffield has led the Stars to the top of the conference in blocks per set.
"It's a really big part of our defense," Sheffield said. "We rely on it."
The Stars have blocked well enough to stand at 19-18 with one game remaining in the season, a vast improvement from their 7-26 record from a year ago. But they will most likely not improve their 3-12 record in the AMC. Even with Sheffield, who is listed at 6 feet 2 inches, the Stars lack the size of the top tier teams in the conference.
"There are so many girls in this league that are her size and bigger," McAfee said. "She can't stop everybody."
But she has blocked more often than anyone in the conference and could be honored on one of the All-Conference teams at the end of the season.
"Hopefully she'll get the recognition she deserves at the end of the year," McAfee said.