SEMO volleyball season comes to an end
Redhawks volleyball concluded its most successful season in five years with a first-round loss to Morehead State in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament on Nov. 15.
Sixth-seeded SEMO got swept by the third-seed Morehead State 25-23, 25-10 and 25-19 and finished its season just over .500 at 16-14. Southeast tallied its highest win total (16) and conference win total (8) since the 2013 season.
Southeast won its first 15 sets in a 5-0 start before eventually falling to Radford on Aug. 30.
“It was really exciting the way we started the season,” Southeast coach Julie Yankus said. “I think it gave our team a lot of confidence and kind of built them up and showed what we’re capable of doing.”
The Redhawks had two Second Team All-OVC talents on the team in senior rightside hitter Haley Bilbruck and junior outside hitter Annie Wehrheim.
Bilbruck earned her first All-OVC honor after she led the Redhawks in conference play with 161 kills. Overall, she was second on the team in kills (243) and blocks (81) and fourth on the team in digs (211).
“We were really trying to work on developing our leaders,” Yankus said. “You’ve got to get the leaders to want to lead, to buy into what the coaches want. A big part of [our success] comes with their team chemistry. We really had a great group of women on this team that really bought into the common goal of what we wanted to accomplish throughout the season.”
In her first full season at Southeast, Wehrheim finished third on the team in kills with 204. She missed the 2017 campaign with a season-ending injury, and will be back for one more year as a Redhawk.
Another player that is returning for the Redhawks is freshman sensation Claire Ochs, who won the starting setter position over senior Keegan Fornoff Ochs was named a team captain before the start of the season along with Bilbruck and senior outside hitter Madeline Grimm.
Ochs led the Redhawks with 1,104 assists, the fourth-most in Southeast history since switching to the 25-point rally scoring system in 2008. She also finished second on the team in digs with 367.
“It’s really rare to see that, but it is exciting,” Yankus said of Ochs making such an impact right away. “It’s gonna be exciting to see what she can accomplish throughout her career. I believe she’s the most athletic setter in the conference and if she develops and gets some of that decision-making that comes with experience, I think she’s going to be one of the best setters in the conference.”
Overall, the team was balanced in nearly every statistical category. Sophomore middle blocker Maggie Adams led the team in blocks with 105, and sophomore defensive specialist Ally Dion led in digs with 395.
Sophomore outside hitter Laney Malloy, who transferred from the University of Illinois-Chicago, was one of the biggest contributors for the Redhawks in 2018. At times, she would be moved to libero because teams would consistently serve to Malloy regardless of where she played.
“I saw it as ‘OK, you want to serve to me? I’ll pass the ball, that’s your loss,’” Malloy said of being targeted on serves. “I don’t really see it as something that’s negative. I know I had a double block a lot of the times. So that made it easier for the other hitters, when they were set, to have more one-on-one opportunities.”
Malloy led the team in kills with 299 and finished third in digs with 302.
“She’s one of the most well-rounded players that we have and I think as we add some more depth and things shake out for next season, I’m excited to see what she can do,” Yankus said of Malloy.
The Redhawks have four seniors graduating in Bilbruck, Fornoff, Grimm and rightside hitter Madara Bajare. The junior class will return Wehrheim, middle blocker Krista Berns, outside hitter Mikayla Kuhlmann and defensive specialist Emily Boggetto.
Eight underclassmen also will return in 2019: Adams, Dion and Malloy make up the sophomores; completing their freshman year were outside hitter Kendall Washington, middle blocker Elissa Moylan, Ochs and rightside hitters Caroline Draver and Colby Greene.
“I’m really excited about next year,” Yankus said. “We’ve got three different newcomers of the week that will all be back and just have more experience under their belt, and then the incoming class is gonna be really strong. This year was fun. They were a fun team to watch and I think next year is going to be even more exciting.”