Henning's improvement boosts Missouri volleyball team

Saturday, September 24, 2011 | 7:24 p.m. CDT; updated 6:31 p.m. CDT, Thursday, September 29, 2011
Sophomore Lisa Henning jumps for a block during drills at practice on Friday. This year Henning was switched from playing front row to the back row, which is more concerned with playing defense.

COLUMBIA — Lisa Henning stands along the back line of the volleyball court. She waits there patiently. Texas A&M outside hitter Kelsey Black rises up and spikes the ball toward Henning, who reaches for the ball but comes up short.

After the play, Henning walks over to fellow back line player Priscilla Armendariz, who gave her a pat on the back and told her to move on. 

Henning said learning to put mistakes behind her is something she has battled with. She said she has to avoid doing this to grow as a player. 

Henning didn't dwell on the mistake for too long. A couple of plays later, she ran up to the net for a spike. The ball landed in front of Aggie defensive specialist Megan Pendergast, who was stunned. Henning screamed and ran over to her teammates, who greeted her in the middle of the court. 

Senior libero Armendariz, who recorded her 1,000th dig on Saturday, said that it's her role to settle Henning down and make sure she moves onto the next play.

"She (Henning) listens to me a lot, so I think she really takes in what I say," Armendariz said. 

Missouri coach Wayne Kreklow said he would have to take Henning out of the game last season because she couldn't recover from mistakes. He said that her face would get red and she would get angry with herself. 

Henning admits that but thinks she has gotten better. 

"I still panic a little bit, but I think I've started to learn who I am and know this is my personality and to not be ashamed of it," Henning said. 

Kreklow agrees. 

"She's (Henning) done a much better job of moving on, and that has been big for our team," Kreklow said.

Evidence of Henning's growth was on display in Missouri's match with Texas A&M on Saturday afternoon at Hearnes Center. She recorded a career-high 21 kills and seven digs in the Tigers' 23-25, 25-23, 26-24, 25-23 victory over the Aggies. Missouri is now 14-4 on the season. 

Henning's high-strung personality on the court is different off the court. She is more laid-back. She said that she likes to spend time outdoors, whether that involves going to a dog park or walking on trails. 

Before a match, Henning listens to Lil Wayne's "Tha Carter IV" album and, if the mood strikes her, even slower love songs. On other occasions, she will put her iPod on shuffle and listen to whatever song comes up. 

"I think it just gets me in a completely relaxed mode," Henning said.  

Part of her pregame routine takes place on the court right before the match is about to start. Henning often spends that time in deep thought, replaying what the coaches have emphasized throughout the week. 

"I think about different things like footwork, so whenever game time comes, my thoughts aren't all crazy," Henning said.

Henning switched from being a front row player to the back row during the offseason. While she occupied the outside hitter position during her freshman season with the Tigers, she said that she played all positions in high school and has some experience with what it takes to succeed along the back row. 

She said taking part in the Tour of China volleyball competition this past summer also made the transition easier. Henning said in China she also worked on not dwelling on her mistakes.

"I mean back row is all about confidence. Sure, it's about skill. But, if you have the confidence, then you can do well," Henning said. 

Henning has also relied on the other back row players for advice, specifically Armendariz. She said that part of being a back row player involves being ready for deflections, something she did not need to worry about as an outside hitter. 

"Knowing as a freshman, I think if I was playing back row it would not have been the best choice for me. Now, being older, and being a sophomore, I think it was a better choice," Henning said.

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