Southeast Missouri State University student publication

SEMO volleyball storm into OVC tournament looking for their second trophy in three years

Sunday, November 19, 2023
SEMO volleyball teammates celebrate together after scoring a point against the Lindenwood Lions.
Photo by Beto Vaca Diez

With the regular season coming to a close, SEMO volleyball has set its sights on the upcoming OVC tournament hoping to add another trophy to their collection.

The Redhawks enter into the tournament after an impressive season with an overall record of 20-8 and a conference record of 12-5, securing the second seed in the tournament.

“I’ve learned that we have a lot of depth on the team, we are able to respond to adversity and those are huge keys to our success this season looking forward to a tournament run this week, we learned a lot since day one,” head coach Julie Yankus said.

The Redhawks not only bring their winning record, but a mountain of experience with them, having 10 seniors on the team, all with tournament experience and OVC championships under their belt.

“We have a lot of experience on this team with 10 seniors which is unheard of, and just seeing them develop throughout the season as not just players but as leaders is really important and going to be pivotal to our success,” Coach Yankus said.

One of these experienced players, graduate student libero Tara Beilsmith, has won two OVC tournaments in the past, and is currently gearing up for her last tournament before graduation.

“We (the team) keep talking about it, minimum we have three matches left, maximum we have like six, and I’m going for that maximum, I’m not ready to be done, I want to be a student athlete as long as possible, but having so many seniors on the team I think we’re very aware of what could happen and we’re very ready to work for it,” Beilsmith said.

Beilsmith currently leads the OVC in digs for this season and holds the all time record for digs in the OVC as well, and is a potential candidate for defensive player of the year.

Beilsmith is not the only one on the team who could win individual awards however, as her teammate freshman outside hitter Lucy Arndt, currently second in the OVC for kills averaging 4.22 kills per set could win freshman of the year, and senior setter Izzy Lukens who averages 10.44 assists per set the second highest in the OVC could win setter of the year.

“I couldn’t have gotten all of the awards without all of them, they push me every single day, they make me a better person, and player, so I couldn't get this without every single one of them,” Arndt said.

Yankus mentioned the impact that these players have had on the team going into the tournament is not only with what they bring to the court, but also gives a psychological advantage to the team.

“It matters a lot, Looking at the end of the year awards, we’re in a good spot, we truly have contenders on this team for defensive player of the year, freshman of the year and setter of the year, and so if we’ve got the top one or two people in each of those positions available to us we should be able to have the experience and the talent to put it all together for an OVC championship,” Yankus said.

When it comes to the rest of the OVC, the teams are competitive, each presenting different challenges and obstacles for the Redhawks to overcome.

“I think that everyone is a big competitor because the teams that we have played have gotten so much better than when we have played them, so I think anyone can give us a run for our money, but also I think that we have every chance to beat every team in the conference,” Lukens said.

The second seeded Redhawks will start their tournament campaign against the Western Illinois Leathernecks on Nov. 20 at 4 p.m. at Lantz Arena in Charleston, Ill.