The injury bug has bit the Missouri State volleyball team lately and three words have defined their 2019 season so far: “Next woman up.”
The Bears are embracing that approach after losing several players due to injury, headlined by standout sophomore Amelia Flynn.
Interim head coach Manolo Concepción declined to go into specifics about the nature of the injury but said Flynn could return by the end of this month when Missouri Valley Conference games start.
“She has been recovering; she has been rehabbing,” Concepción said. “She is doing everything that she needs to be doing. She is taking care of business. We know sooner rather than later we will count on her again.”
Even with the injuries, Concepción is impressed with the team’s willingness to step up and make up for that lost production.
He said the players are open to doing whatever is needed to help the team be successful.
The volleyball team is also coming off its third tournament.
In the opening night of the MSU Fall Invitational, Missouri State knocked off a Power 5 school for the sixth consecutive season on Sept. 12. The Bears powered past Kansas State behind sophomore Chloe Rear, who notched her second triple-double of the season.
It was the Bears’ first win against the Wildcats since 1990.
Concepción praised Rear’s versatility, who played three different positions during the tournament. She alternated from outside hitter, right side hitter and setter.
“To see players like that, ‘We before me,’” Concepción said, “that is something we are really excited about.”
While the volleyball team finished the tournament with a 1-3 record, a bright spot was the emergence of sophomore Sara Worsley-Gilbert. She was lone the Bears’ representative on the all-tournament team.
Concepción said the tournament was a breakthrough weekend for Worsley-Gilbert. She transferred to Missouri State from Texas State this year.
Worsley-Gilbert helped the Bobcats to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2018. In 2015, she was named an AAU All-American as a member of the Orlando Tampa Volleyball Academy.
“(I’m) very excited to see how she has come into her own,” Concepción said. “Her aggressiveness and ability to play against eye-level blockers (stands out). She is a big weapon offensively. I think she is somebody who opponents are going to have to worry about when the MVC starts.”
The Bears play their final nonconference weekend Sept. 20-21 at Ball State, where they will take on the host Cardinals, Wright State and Austin Peay.
Senior Aubrey Cheffey said she is excited about what’s ahead with the team.
“If we play like we are capable, we all get better and keep working hard —we’re going to do good,” Cheffey said.
Missouri State, which was predicted to finish third in the Valley in a preseason coaches poll on Aug. 21, plays at Illinois State on Sept. 27 to start their conference schedule.
Concepción expects his players to answer the bell.
“We will be ready,” Concepción said. “The way we train and develop allows everyone to play everywhere. It allows everyone to have a value, so everyone has to step up. I think we will have good depth whenever everyone gets back.”