Missouri Baptist women’s volleyball had a dominating performance in its win against Stephens College Monday evening. In straight sets of 25-13, 25-14 and 25-10, No. 1 Missouri Baptist showed why they are one of the top teams in the American Midwest Conference.
Initially the Stars put up an impressive effort to stay competitive with the Spartans. The first set went back and forth, with Stephens (3-19) taking the lead a few times. This went on until the score reached 11-11, when Missouri Baptist figured out how to capitalize on Stephens’ weaknesses and exploded on a quick 7-2 run.
After this, the other sets played out much the same way. The Stars were competitive early on, but ultimately wouldn’t be able to keep momentum going. While the Stars didn’t get the outcome they wanted, they looked to have improved a bit. This contest provided a lot of insight into why the team both struggled and succeeded in some areas.
If there is one thing the Stars have in spades, it’s their absolute tenacity in play and communication.
Throughout the match, the Stars constantly battled for every live ball and possession. Plays where many other teams would give up, the Stars attempted to battle through and make the play count. It’s not an uncommon sight to see a Stephens player dive onto the ground to save a possession.
In one particular instance in the second set, Stars player Sarah Dudley ran and dove into her team’s bench chairs to keep a play alive.
Although Stephens College sees itself as a defensive-minded team, that was one of many areas the team struggled in against Missouri Baptist.
Missouri Baptist scored a total of three solo blocks and eight assisted blocks. Compared to Stephens which only produced two assisted blocks and zero solo blocks, the difference is apparent. Coach Luana Fields understands that this needs to be addressed.
“We are not a strong offensive team. We focus on our defense and our pass and our serving for a reason.” Fields said. “The reading part of the block is where we are limited in practice. With that being said though we’ve been playing a lot in practice. I bring a lot of former volleyball players to play against them, so that’s kind of where the reading practice will come from. We do what we can with what we have.”
Just when the Stars seemed to be gaining momentum for a scoring run, they shot themselves in the foot with errors.
Stephens College recorded 20 attacking errors and seven reception errors, while Missouri Baptist only had eight attacking errors and three reception errors. The Stars recorded double the amount of errors as Missouri Baptist.
The Stars are also physically a small team compared with the rest of their conference. When both lineups were on the court practicing, the difference was immediately noticeable. The average height of a Stars player is 5-foot-6. For the Spartans, it’s an average of 5-10. And on top of all this, Fields says the Stars are lacking bodies.
“Look at Missouri Baptist, they have at any time in the game five strong hitters in there. If the setter puts it to anyone in there, they’re going to do a great job,” Fields said. “My team, I might have one or two during that game that can do that. The rest are trying to do the best that they can.”
With only a few games left in the season, and being out of the playoff picture, there’s not much time left for Stephens College to improve this season. But if the team keeps at it, their improvements will be a solid foundation heading into next season.
The Stephens Stars next take on Harris-Stowe State University in an away game at 10 a.m. Saturday in St. Louis.