Following up a season like the one Ting Liu had in 2008 was going to be difficult, no matter how well Emporia State's setter performed.
But the drop-off in her performance in 2009 was alarming. The 6-foot-1 Beijing native went from an All-American and a first-team all-MIAA selection to a second-team all-MIAA selection. Not only that, but the Hornets, the defending league champion, faltered down the stretch after being a preseason favorite to repeat.
Changes needed to be made headed into Liu's senior season.
"The whole level of the league went up last year and her mobility was a little off," Emporia State coach Bing Xu said. "So before this season we came to her and told her that was what she needed to work on, to become more mobile and make sure she was getting her feet where they needed to be.
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"We've kept reminding her that she needs to always work on her speed and quickness and hopefully she can maintain her level of play."
Liu has responded in kind, taking MIAA specialist of the week honors three straight times to open the season.
"Our season has started very well, we are very focused as a group," Liu said. "We feel like we're all getting better and maybe that's just because we know each other so well."
Liu leads the MIAA in assists per set (10.84) and teammate Brittney Miller leads the league in kills per set (3.54).
"We feel like we've improve a lot," Xu said. "There's still things we need to work on, like ball control, but we seem like we're headed in the right direction."
The Hornets, ranked No. 11 in the latest NCAA Division II poll, host No. 7 Central Missouri on Wednesday in a showdown between the league's last two regular-season champions. Both schools are 3-0 in league play and tied for first.
"Central Missouri is a good team, and it's usually a battle whenever we play," Xu said. "In this league, home or away, I always tell our girls they should be excited to get to play at this level of competition."
Coffeyville's dynamic duo — A pair of high-profile transfers are paying off in a big way for the No. 7 Coffeyville Community College football team.
Wide receiver Duron Carter, an Ohio State transfer, is tied for the league lead with seven touchdowns and is fourth in receiving with 252 yards.
Tennessee transfer Nu'Keese Richardson, a defensive back, leads the league with four interceptions and four pass break-ups.
The Red Ravens put their 3-0 record on the line Saturday at Fort Scott.