The beach volleyball team at Missouri State wrapped up its second season with a record of 12-11, the first winning record since its initiation season last year.
“It was an amazing second year,” head coach Terri Del Conte said. “We put in so much to not look like a second-year program.”
The Bears started their season at the Horned Frogs Challenge competing against three top 20 teams: No. 19 Grand Canyon University, No. 16 Georgia State and No. 17 Tulane, as well as Texas Christian University. They came away 0-4, but feeling excited after a close game against TCU (2-3).
“My partner and I beat TCU,” junior Kelsey Larsen said. “That was a really huge match because they’re a highly ranked team. That was a huge challenge for us that we overcame together.”
Kelsey’s partner at the time was freshman Kylee Davis.
The players attribute most of their success this season to a different team atmosphere and putting in a lot of hard work.
“It was night and day from the first season,” sophomore Sam Brinkmann said. “I think all of us improved so much and we really honed in our skills.”
Del Conte had a lot to do with this change.
“We did a lot physically,” Brinkmann said. “Terri pushed us a lot physically in practice, but she pushed us a lot mentally too, and I think that made the biggest difference.”
Looking and acting like a second-year program was out of the question for Del Conte.
“I knew we really needed to start off right off the bat with a lot of hard work, a lot of conditioning, and just really setting a new standard for year two,” Del Conte said.
The Bears competed against many other ranked teams throughout the season including No. 9 Long Beach State, No. 7 Cal Poly, No. 13 Loyola Marymount and No. 11 South Carolina.
“We battled really hard with No. 7 Cal Poly; we took them to three (sets) in several pairs scenarios,” Del Conte said. “We just really showed everything we had that match. The results didn’t reflect the battle we had with them.”
The Bears also hosted the MSU Beach Invitational against Park, Ottawa and Missouri Baptist. The Bears won every match of the invitational.
The Bears also competed at the ULM Warhawk Invitational against New Orleans and Houston Baptist.
“We had a really nice win over University of New Orleans,” Del Conte said. “We beat them 3-2, and it was a really neck-and-neck battle. I really saw the grit from our team in that match.”
The last match of the season for the Bears was a second match against Tulane, a team they had fell 2-3 to in the first invitational of the season.
“Me and my partner Sarah Demmer had the last match — the deciding match — and we won it,” Brinkmann said. “All my teammates were on the sidelines cheering us on, it was awesome.”
Del Conte said beating Tulane was an amazing way to end the season and really put a cherry on top of the season.
The Bears are already preparing for next season, adding an entire new half of a team, all with beach volleyball background.
“This third year is a whole new level of excitement,” Del Conte said. “We have nine new freshmen coming in with a nice background of beach volleyball, plus a grad transfer that we’re planning to get.”