As the Missouri Tiger volleyball team heads down the homestretch of its season, fans are getting a glimpse an experienced veteran defensive leader and a young offensive talent waiting in the wings for her time as a leader.
The two are Blue Springs products. Junior Priscilla Armendariz went to Blue Springs South, while freshman Lisa Henning went to Blue Springs High.
Their play helped the Tigers get off to a very strong start, winning its first seven matches and nine of 11. After losing to No. 3 Nebraska in late October, the Tigers reeled of six more victories in a row, including an upset of No. 12 Iowa St., but fell to No. 8 Texas on Nov. 17 to end the streak.
Armendariz patrols the back row for the Missouri Tigers as a defensive specialist. It’s a role that was somewhat new to her when she came to Mizzou.
“I’ve always loved playing defense, and on my club team, I was the libero,” she said of her position. “I kind of changed roles between high school and club, which was a little weird too, but coming here, it wasn’t that big of a change since I had been libero for my club team for a couple of years. I think it was a great fit for me, and Mizzou needed another defensive specialist on the team.”
Through 28 matches, she was third on the team with 228 digs, averaging 2.3 per game.
When Armendariz was graduated from high school, playing college volleyball was not on her mind.
“I kind of never really thought about playing college volleyball,” she said. “I was in to playing volleyball for fun. It was something I really enjoyed doing, but never had future aspirations for it until I had a couple of schools offer me a walk-on position. Wichita St., Washburn and Kansas offered me a scholarship, and then MU turned around and offered me one.”
Her plans were to attend Missouri even if she didn’t participate in any sports. Looking back, it was a decision she didn’t regret.
“I just love the school and the atmosphere. Once MU offered me a scholarship, then I thought, why not take the opportunity. I didn’t want to turn down that chance.”
Armendariz is majoring in health sciences with an emphasis in diagnostic medical ultrasound. Her plan is to go to graduate school to continue her studies once she has completed her undergraduate work.
“I’m looking at a school back home (Kansas City), but there is a grad school program for that here at Mizzou,” she said. “I haven’t decided which one I want to attend yet.”
On the offensive side, Henning, who stands 6-0, has become a solid outside hitter for the Tigers. She is fourth on the team with 212 kills.
Success is nothing new to Henning. At Blue Springs, she was a member of four consecutive conference titles. It’s something she can wave in the face of her cross-town rival and friend Armendariz.
“The rivalry is something that sometimes comes up,” she said. “When we did play against each other, it was a big rivalry, but now we’re on the same team playing for the same goals.”
Henning started getting recruiting letters during her high school freshman year, but Missouri didn’t start pursuing her until she was a sophomore.
“I committed the fall of my junior year,” she said. “Before I made my decision, I narrowed it down to five schools in the Big 12, and I visited every single one.
I made a list of the pros and cons about what I liked and didn’t like. And basically, it came down to where I saw myself fitting in the best.”
Henning is majoring in sports management.
“I want to be with a sports organization, either working in the front office or administrative area of a pro level or collegiate team,” she said.
Her focus is helping the Tigers get an NCAA Tournament bid.
“I want to contribute to the team as much as I can so that we can go as far as we can,” she said. “I think we all just really focused. Everyone wants to do their best. Everyone is pushing really hard to contribute and make this a great year for the team. I’ve never been in a situation like this.”
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