Stephens volleyball team not ready to be counted out

Thursday, September 1, 2011 | 11:40 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — At 8 a.m. on a Thursday morning most students are heading to class, cramming one last bit of information into their head before a test, or hitting the snooze. But for the members of the Stephens College volleyball team, it’s a whole different story.

They are in the middle of another morning practice, running through drills, calling balls and blasting music like “Under the Sea” from the “Little Mermaid.”

“We all know how to stay serious, but we like to keep the music going,” senior Megan Sheffield said. “The minute it gets quiet in here, and we don’t have our music on, we just can’t play, we’re off.”

Along with the music is a gentle mix of laughter and constructive criticism.

“If someone messes up, we’ll be like, hey try this or keep going, you’re going to get the next one,” Sheffield said. “That’s really important.”

After a 3-0 loss to Missouri Valley College on Tuesday, the Stars are looking to improve.

“We made some mistakes, yea, but it was a lot of those early-in-the-season mistakes that are gonna happen,” senior Kelsey Benson said.

One possible problem the Stars will have to deal with this season is having only eight players on the team.

“The recruiting wasn’t great. We had one girl not make eligibility,” coach Shane McAfee said, “so that kinda hurt us.”

Having just eight players might be a struggle for most volleyball teams, but the Stars plan to rise to the occasion.

“Everyone on our team knows that we gotta give it all our ‘cause there’s no one else on that bench that is going to be able to come in and cover for us if we’re messing up,” Benson said, “so that means a lot.”

One of those eight players, freshman Lesta Newberry, has been injured and did not play in the Missouri Valley game, so the other players had to push themselves even harder. Newberry twisted her ankle the first practice and has been going easy on the ankle ever since.

“She’s coming around now, so hopefully these few days off (before) the next match will help her be ready,” McAfee said.

Whether it has seven healthy players or eight, Stephens thinks it is ready to beat the odds.

“I’m ready to surprise a lot of people ‘cause they don’t really know how hard we work and how well we really click together,” Sheffield said. “I don’t think a lot of people realize how good we can be."

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