Southern volleyball signs nine for 2012

Joplin, Mo. -- Missouri Southern volleyball coach Trish Knight has announced the addition of nine individuals for the 2012 season. The list of newcomers to the roster includes three junior college and four-year transfers, as well as six high school student-athletes. 

Joining the Lions as transfers includes a pair of players from Evangel University in Springfield. Aleisha Joyce is a Carthage native and will be a senior this season after playing one season at Evangel and two seasons at East Central Community College. Joyce, a 6-0 middle blocker, played in all 35 matches for the Lady Crusaders last season, averaging 0.57 blocks per set, while hitting .262 and knocking out 1.19 kills per set. 

At East Central, Joyce was an All-Conference pick twice, and was the junior college National Player of the Week on Sept. 22, 2010 after totaling 60 kills, 38 blocks, four digs and hitting .459, while helping her team to a 6-0 mark that week. She helped the team to a Region Championship each season and finish 13th nationally as a freshman and 11th as a sophomore. Joyce prepped at Carthage High School for coach Butch Loveall and was a three-year starter for the Lady Tigers, earning All-Conference, All-District and All-Region honors. The daughter of Matt and Michelle Joyce, Aleisha is an education major at Southern. 

"Aleisha is a local Carthage kid that is transferring to us from Evangel," Knight said. "Her experience and strength at closing the block will be an asset for us.  She has a great presence on the court.  She has fun, but is a fierce competitor and has the right personality for the middle, but could play right side as well."

Ashlynn Meredith comes to Southern from Evangel, but will have all four years of eligibility remaining after redshirting last season. A native of Aurora, Mo., Meredith is a 5-7 defensive specialist that played at Aurora High School under coach Trisha Fronabarger. She was an All-Conference pick in both her junior and senior seasons, while also playing basketball for the Houn' Dawgs. 

An All-District selection, as well, Meredith led her team in aces and kills as a senior, while helping the basketball team to conference championships in 2008 and 2009, a district title in 2008 and an appearance in the state quarterfinals in 2008, as well. The daughter of Patrick and Jennifer Meredith, Ashlynn will be a mass communication major at Southern. 

"Ashlynn is a transfer from Evangel and will have to sit out this season," Knight said.  "She is from right up the road in Aurora.  Ashlynn has very good ball control and she will have an important role in playing on the scrimmage team to help us prepare for competition.  It will be nice to have such a quality player that can contribute in that role and then be ready to take the court the following season."

Nairobys (Nai) Montano transfers to Southern after two seasons at Independence Community College. The native of Porlamar, Venezuela, Montano is a 5-11 outside hitter. An All-Conference pick both seasons, Montano was an All-Region selection last year, while being named to the conference All-Tournament team in each season. 

Last year as a sophomore, Montano hit .296 with 228 kills, averaging 2.7 kills per set. She averaged 1.87 digs per set, while knocking back 42 blocks for 0.49 per set. The daughter of Pedro and Flecidad Montano, Nai will be an international business major at Southern. 

"Nairobys is from Venezuela and is a juco transfer from Independence CC," Knight said. "I was impressed by her ball control and versatility.  She can play anywhere and can do it well.  Her experience will really help stabilize this young team.  She is fun to watch and it will be nice to have an International player on our team."

Among the six high school student-athletes joining the Lions are four from Southwest Missouri.

Kaycia Fry is a 5-5 defensive specialist that comes to Southern from Liberal High School in Liberal, Mo. She was a four-year starter in the sports of volleyball and track and field for coach Russ Cramer. On the volleyball court, Fry was the Spring River Valley Conference Player of the Year in 2012, while earning All-Conference honors every season she played. She was an All-State selection in both her junior and senior seasons, while earning an All-Region nod in each of her final three seasons. 

She owns the LHS school record for career kills (739), career digs (770), career blocks (210), and single-season aces (75). She also set records on the track, being part of three different school record holding relay teams (4x100m, 4x200m and 4x400m). She helped the Lady Bulldogs to a volleyball district title in three different seasons, while earning a sectional title her senior season and finishing third in the state tournament. She also helped Liberal to a fifth place finish in the state track meet her freshman and sophomore year, while a third place finish in her junior season. The daughter of Harvey and Leticia Fry, Kaycia plans to major in business at Southern. 

"Kaycia is a local player that played for Liberal High School," Knight said. "She is a worker.  You won't out hustle her.  She has a great attitude and I expect her to contribute on the back row for us.  She has the heart it takes to make an excellent libero/defensive specialist.  She has a good understanding of the game as well."

Cheyanne Crandall is a 6-0 opposite/middle hitter from Neosho High School. A three-year starter for coaches Amber Gallamore and Kerri Roy, Crandall led the Lady Wildcats in kills and blocks as a senior, while earning first-team All-Conference honors. She was a second-team All-District selection, while also leading the Neosho girls basketball team in scoring that season.

Crandall holds the NHS school record for career blocks and kills and is the daughter of Rueben and Stacy Crandall. She plans to major in education at Southern.

"Cheyanne is a very good athlete that will just keep improving with training," Knight said. "She is versatile and can play all front row positions and will be able to contribute wherever we need her to play.  She is a hard worker and has a great attitude.  With those qualities, I expect Cheyanne to develop into a really good player.  It is also nice that she is a local player from Neosho High School." 

Payton Graves is a 6-1 middle hitter from Glendale High School in Springfield. A four-year starter for the Lady Falcons, Graves was an All-Conference selection in both her junior and senior seasons, while earning All-District honors as a senior and an All-Region nod, as well. 

The single-season record holder at GHS for blocks (106) and attacks (280), Graves also started four seasons on the basketball court. The daughter of Chris Graves and Melissa Middlemas, Payton plans to major in dental hygiene at Southern. 

"Payton brings not only great athletic ability and height to our middle attacker position, but a great attitude, as well," Knight said. "She has such a good demeanor on the court.  Her teammates will enjoy playing with her and she will be fun to coach as well.  As Payton matures physically, she will really be a force on the net.  She has good blocking instincts and really works hard."

Abby Finder is a 5-8 setter from Ellisville, Mo. and played at Lafayette High School in the St. Louis area. A two-year starter for the Lancers, Finder was an All-Conference, All-Metro and All-State winner in 2010 and was a first-team All-State honoree last year. She was also an Academic All-State pick. 

Finder helped her team to a conference and district title in 2010. She turned around and improved on that as a senior, as she helped lead Lafayette to a district, sectional and state championship. The daughter of Thomas and Maureen Finder, Abby plans to major in nursing at Southern. Her father played football at Missouri Southern, while she has an uncle that played baseball at Southern Illinois - Carbondale and her grandfather was a football player at Missouri. 

"Abby is used to winning," Knight said. "She played for Lafayette High School, who won the class 4A State Volleyball Championship.  Abby is a great setter and plays smart.   She is also a lefty, which is a huge asset for a setter.  She can really take a nice swing as well.  I am really looking forward to having Abby on the team.  She brings a lot of athletic ability to our setter position."

Sarah Cunningham is a 5-6 defensive specialist from Warrenton High School in Warrenton, Mo. A four-year starter for coach Drew Demanule at Warrenton, Cunningham was an All-Conference and All-District selection on the volleyball court, while earning All-District and All-Conference honors in track and field, as well. 

A state qualifier in track and field, Cunningham is the daughter of Mark and Laura Cunningham and plans to major in nursing at Southern. 

"Sarah is a really physical athlete with a huge heart," Knight said. "She just flat competes hard and that is a quality that you just can't teach.  I know she can help us defensively, but with her strength, determination, and power, she may be one of the smaller players that can play on the front row as well."

Callie Whetstone is a 6-1 middle hitter from Springfield, Ill., where she started for two years for coach Cheryl Ballinger at Pleasant Plains High School.

An All-Conference and All-county selection, Whetstone has been named to six-different All-Tournament teams. The daughter of Dennis and Dina Whetstone, Callie plans to major in biology at Southern.

"I went to St. Louis to watch Sarah Cunningham play and got a big bonus," Knight said. "There was this tall 6'1" middle just banging away on the other court and just so competitive.  When I checked, I found out she hadn't signed yet.  Call it fate, but what a great find.  Callie is super athletic and competitive.  She just fit in so well with our players.  I am really looking forward to working with her.  She hasn't even begun to tap into her potential."