Stephens College Stars hope to shine at Eagle Invitational volleyball tournament

Thursday, September 5, 2013 | 10:47 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — The Stephens College volleyball team looks to continue its success going into this weekend's Eagle Invitational at Avila University in Kansas City.

Stephens started its season at the Viking Invitational where the team won its first game but fell to host Missouri Valley College in its second game. This weekend, the Stars have a chance for redemption as they face Missouri Valley again in the third match of the tournament.

"We should've beat them; it made me so mad," junior setter Samantha Phegley said about her team's performance against Missouri Valley. "We are going to dominate, like I'm really ready to see the looks on their faces, because we didn't play like we should have. I'm really excited to actually play them as good as I know we can and to upset them and beat them."

The rematch between the Stephens College Stars and the Vikings is set to take place at 9 a.m. Saturday . Stephens opens the tournament at 11 a.m. Friday against Kansas Wesleyan.

Stephens lost to Missouri Valley in three sets Saturday (25-7, 25-14, 25-23), butcoach Rose Obunaga said that may have been because of the heat. The temperature on the court was in the upper 90s, and the fans were sweating as much as the players. Obunaga said that was one factor that contributed to their loss.

"It (the heat) actually changes ball control a lot if you're not used to it, because it seems like you're playing outside," Obunaga said. "That's not the reason why we lost, but the few conditions can alter the players' attitude and mindset of the game."

Obunaga also said the pace of the game affected the outcome.

"I think we started low, and we played them fast, and we tried to fix the mistakes, but it was too late," Obunaga said. "It was in the third game, but we've been talking and thinking that if we start the way we finished, the results may be a little bit different."

As the Stars look to their rematch against Missouri Valley, they also have to face Kansas Wesleyan, McPherson College and Oklahoma Wesleyan University teams that they didn't play against last year during Obunaga's first year as head coach. McPherson and Missouri Valley both enter the tournament undefeated.

Though winning won't be easy, Obunaga says Stephens is prepared. The Stars have a young team this year with six freshmen, but that didn't stop some of them from shining during last weekend's tournament. Freshman Kerri Kircher from Richmond, Ind., had 13 kills in the match against Southwestern College, and freshman Tanya Avington was named to the Viking Invitational All-Tournament Team.

"The freshmen are doing awesome," Obunaga said. "Being freshmen, it is sometimes hard to adjust from high school and step into college and start playing high-caliber volleyball. I was nervous to see how they were going to begin playing, but they surprised me."

Kircher, who chose Stephens after receiving a postcard in the mail from the college, was excited about her first collegiate matches. She felt good about her performance last weekend and credits her entire team's success on the court as a factor that helped her during the game. When asked what she was most excited about in the Eagle Invitational, Kircher had a similar response to Phegley's.

"Playing Missouri Valley," Kircher said. "And winning."

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