Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Tara Beilsmith emerges as SEMO defensive anchor

Friday, September 16, 2022
Senior Tara Beilsmith serves the ball in an exhibition game vs. Jefferson College on Tuesday, Aug. 16 at Houck Fieldhouse.
Photo by Jan Salmon

Senior libero Tara Beilsmith has won the OVC’s Defensive Player of the Week award for the third week in a row. The award acknowledged the Weldon Spring, Missouri native’s importance to the team’s current victories and her high ranking in the NCAA.

Beilsmith has averaged six digs/set and 1.2 assists/set. With the exception of Christina Martinez Mundo of Eastern Illinois University, every other OVC leader in digs is averaging nearly two less digs per set than Beilsmith.

Beilsmith currently ranks second in the NCAA in digs/set and third overall in the nation with 211 total digs.

She has been nothing short of a defensive anchor for the Redhawks thus far, as Beilsmith was named to the University of Northern Iowa’s all tournament team after the Redhawk’s 1-2 finish at UNI’s invitational tournament last weekend.

During their two day stay at UNI, Beilsmith racked up a team leading 89 digs (7.42 digs/set) with 14 assists (1.17 assists/set).

Head coach Julie Yankus said she was impressed by her performance and emphasized Beilsmith’s importance to her team’s success especially during the weekend tournament.

“(Beilsmith) has been a huge part of our success. We would not have played the way we did and competed the way we did, getting a big win against Western Michigan, without Tara Beilsmith,” Yankus said.

The libero was a captain of last year’s OVC championship team, and according to Coach Yankus has played a pivotal role in the development of her teammates.

“(Tara) has done a great job of developing into that role of understanding how to be demanding from her teammates, “Yankus said. “But also being empathetic with them, respecting, building that trust, and continuing to stress the importance of we over me.”

The libero position is unique in the fact they cannot serve, they can rotate into the game freely for someone in the back row, and they typically specialize in serve receptions. The position was created as part of a recent rule change for all NCAA volleyball teams.

Coach Yankus said Tara’s defensive capabilities at the libero position play off of this rule well.

“The fact that we get to have her on the court all the time as that defensive anchor is a huge asset for us. She is basically in charge of our first contact, so anything we do in volleyball you need to have a first good contact in order to have a good second contact and hopefully that big kill,” Yankus said. “Smart teams hit it away from her.”

Beilsmith’s teammate and the OVC’s leader in blocks redshirt junior Mackenzie Meehan also spoke highly of Tara’s importance to her team both as a player and a leader.

“She is such a competitive person,” Meehan said. “She forces that drive onto everyone else and she's such a good leader. For me being a blocker I always trust her even though she doesn’t block I always trust her to tell me what to do better, so I think we have a very good chemistry on and off the court”

Beilsmith credited most of her success to having a relentless drive on the court and trusting her teammates.

“I like to have my team’s back, and I like them to know that I have their backs. So I'm just trying to be consistent with putting all my effort into every single point,” Beilsmith said.

Beilsmith and the Redhawks will look to build off their NIU win against Western Michigan at 12 p.m. on Sept. 16 at the Saluki invitational in Carbondale, Illinois.