Missouri’s Lisa Henning makes impact off volleyball court

12/05/2013 7:43 PM

12/05/2013 7:43 PM

Missouri’s Lisa Henning wasn’t just honored for her volleyball play this season, earning first-team all-Southeastern Conference honors. She also made the SEC Community Service team, an award that recognizes her heart and compassion.

Henning, a Blue Springs graduate and senior outside hitter for the Tigers, is a regular visitor at the MU Children’s Hospital and spent two months teaching before-school volleyball classes to elementary school-aged children.

She also frequents local retirement communities, volunteers at various youth volleyball clinics and works with a Girl Scouts troop.

Henning became Missouri’s career leader in kills (1,767) and points (2,003 1/2) this season. But her track record of service paints a picture of a big hitter with a soft touch.

“On the court, it’s totally different,” said teammate and MU’s only other senior, Molly Kreklow, the SEC player of the year. “She’s a very fierce competitor. She gets angry, she gets upset. She just brings a lot of emotion to the team, but that’s something that has really helped us out a lot. No matter what, she always brings energy and she always brings the will to win.”

Kreklow said Henning is “goofy and laid back” around her teammates. She smiles easily and has a generally sweet disposition.

Then comes game time.

“Lisa is a very emotional player, and that’s part of what makes her good,” Missouri coach Wayne Kreklow said. “She’s very emotional when she plays and plays with a lot of passion.”

Henning has enjoyed a senior season far beyond her wildest dreams so far, but she isn’t ready for the journey to end. After winning the Tigers’ first SEC championship in any sport, Missouri, 34-0, is the nation’s only undefeated team entering the NCAA Tournament, which begins this weekend with first- and second-round games at 16 campus sites.

The fourth-ranked Tigers, who drew the No. 4 overall seed, opens against IUPUI at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Hearnes Center.

With a win against the Jaguars, the Tigers would play the Purdue-Central Arkansas winner for a spot in the Sweet 16 at Champaign, Ill., next weekend.

“Me and Molly have talked about, ‘Let’s make a statement. This is our last tournament and our last time we’ll be playing here, so let’s make a statement,’” Henning said.

Henning played softball and basketball growing up, but volleyball has always been her first love.

“Growing up, it’s just always been something that was fun and I love to do,” Henning said. “Being out there and having the passion that I do is just because I love the sport.”

She works hard at too, “a lot harder than anybody I really know,” Molly said.

Playing predominantly as a middle blocker in the youth and high school ranks, Henning devoted herself to becoming a better passer and defensive player after moving to the right side at Missouri.

“This year, in particular, what I’ve been most pleased with is the improvement she’s made in her passing, her back-row defense, her general ball-handling skills,” Wayne said. “She’s always been a good swing and a pretty good block, but it’s nice to see her really improve those other areas of her game.”

Molly said she and Henning have something of a good cop, bad cop thing going on in terms of team leadership. She is the gentle, encouraging voice and Henning cracks the whip when needed.

“She holds people to a very high standard, which is good because she holds herself there,” Molly said.

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