Oct. 20, 2011
Tori Beckman helping put Bearcat volleyball on the map
At the conclusion of her interview, Northwest Missouri State junior Tori Beckman was asked her major.
Beckman, who plays libero on the volleyball team, smiled and said Middle School Education. Teachers and future teachers hear often that middle school students are the toughest to teach.
That sort of thinking doesn’t register with Beckman.
“I want to teach them,” Beckman said. “Kids have to learn.”
The brief exchange defines the positive persona Beckman exudes on the volleyball court.
“Being in Maryville, it is a great place to play,” Beckman said. “The community is just awesome. I’m so happy I chose here. From last year to this year, we have more people excited for us. The energy is awesome.
“We’ve gotten more support from our student body, which is awesome. We only hope to increase that for the rest of the games this year and next season.”
How can that enthusiasm not excite you?
And there is more. The Bearcats are coming off a 25-21, 25-23, 26-24 victory at Pittsburg State Wednesday evening that pushed their record to 9-11 overall and 3-4 in the MIAA.
It was a nice rebound victory after a tough loss to No. 7 Central Missouri at home. In two of the three sets against the Jennies, Northwest scored 24 points and were just shy of winning a few sets, if not the match against one of the best volleyball programs in Division II.
“I think it should give our team complete confidence,” Beckman said Tuesday afternoon. “Even though it is a boost of confidence that we can compete with the No. 7 team in the nation, we were two points away. Why can’t we finish? We can’t be overconfident. We need to finish a game next time so we don’t let it happen all season. We don’t want to be here five games later saying we were so close and we lost.”
The Bearcats didn’t let it happen on Wednesday at Pittsburg State.
Beckman said she sees improvement every time the Bearcats take the court for a match.
It’s nice, she said, to see the things they work on in practice and then implement them in games.
“We’ve done a very good job of improving every single game,” Beckman said. “You see it from game to game, whether it is offense or defense, you see new things every single game.”
When a volleyball program is building to become one of the powers in conference instead of a middle-of-the-road team, it needs returners buying into a new system and new talent, whether they are incoming freshmen or transfers.
Beckman fits in the transfer category. After graduating from Park Hill High School, Beckman went to the University of Buffalo and had success. She was named to the Mid-America Conference All-Freshman team. She started in all 32 matches and set a school record for digs with 553.
Beckman figures her parents made between 50 to 75 percent of her matches. That’s a lot of flying.
“My mom was a trooper,” Beckman said.
Despite the success she had at Buffalo, Beckman had a strong desire to play volleyball closer to home. She sent out e-mails to several MIAA schools.
Northwest coach Jessica Rinehart received one of those e-mails and followed up on it. She watched some film on Beckman.
“I knew we would need a libero after Piage Spangenberg graduated. She seemed like a good fit for us,” Rinehart said
“She had a lesser role as a defensive specialist last season. It gave her a year to grow as Paige finished out her good libero career for us.”
After missing the first seven matches, Beckman played in 23, including nine as a starter. She finished fourth on the team with 201 digs and helped contribute to the Bearcats’ first-ever Division II South Central Regional Tournament appearance.
“The fact you can be part of a changing program is different from joining a program that has already been established,” Beckman said. “I think it is a lot harder to transform a team because you have to lay down new rules.
“You have to make sure everybody is on the same page. Last year we established that. Everybody was on the same page. Everybody knew what we wanted to accomplish.”
Northwest lost six seniors, most of whom were key contributors, from last year. With seven freshmen joining the team this year, some of whom were expected to start immediately, there were going to be growing pains.
But the goal of being successful remained identical to last year.
“This year we are going after the same thing,” Beckman said. “We want to make our program just like the football team. We want to be something everybody knows about, like the tennis team. We want to be there, one of the top dogs in the conference.
“I think we have an awesome opportunity with our freshmen in the sense that when Bailey Vance comes on the court she is always staying positive with us. She is bringing new energy in. Bailey and Brooke Bartosh are three-rotation players. Abby Graves, we rely on her a lot. Sometime it is tough to be a freshman, but I think she’s done a good job of keep plugging at it with energy. It has been awesome.
“I want the freshmen to know in our eyes they are not freshmen. They are Northwest Bearcat volleyball players. Everybody is on the same level.”
Every successful team needs players who have a positive outlook because even in down times they can find something good to lift spirits.
“We like her positive energy,” Rinehart said. “Tori has been great for us. She has provided a lot of fire in the back row and stability. She has stepped up in a leadership role and has really started to provide us leadership in the back row. Tori is very competitive. She has been big for us.”
Beckman is now digging balls that Rinehart has never seen her dig before. Beckman continues to grow as a player.
Digging a ball that seems certain to be a kill for the opponent is difficult and takes skill.
“The first thing I think of is our coaches say you have to have the feeling the ball is coming to you every time,” Beckman said. “If you don’t believe the ball is going to be hit to you, you are going to be caught off guard and jerk away from the ball.
“Second, I know that my blockers are going to try to funnel the ball straight to me. If they are doing their job, I need to make sure I’m doing my job. If everybody is doing their job, good things are going to happen. You got to make sure you are doing your job so everybody else can do theirs.”
Beckman is one example of that the Northwest players are really starting to do their jobs well.
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