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Run game an early-season bright spot for MSSU football

JOPLIN, Mo. – The Missouri Southern Lions are back on the road this weekend aiming for their first win of the season against Central Oklahoma.

MSSU is 0-2 to begin their fall schedule, falling to Nebraska-Kearney (38-0) and Northeastern State (21-17) in their first two games.

While the Lions haven’t gotten the results they wanted on the scoreboard early in the season, the team’s rushing attack has been a bright spot. Missouri Southern has rushed for 302 yards in their first two games.

Freshman running back Nathan Glades has led the team’s rushing attack, accounting for 169 yards in his first two career starts.

“We’ve faced two MIAA opponents, and we have ran the ball really well,” says head coach Atiba Bradley, “Where we’ve got to get better is the consistency of running the ball and being able to run the ball at a high level for four straight quarters. Part of that will be getting the passing game going a little bit more and opening up lanes for running. We’ve played two MIAA opponents and gone toe-to-toe with them. We’ve thrown blows with them and we’ve had success against them. Now it’s just raising our play and the level of consistency. That’s what we have to do now.”

This Missouri Southern team is relying an a number of younger players, including Glades, this season.

13 of the Lions’ 22 starters are either freshman or sophomore players – so the growing pains are not unexpected.

“It’s not easy…but growing up isn’t easy,” Bradley says, “Maturation isn’t easy. The hardest part about it is that you can’t rush it. You can’t sit there and say boom you’re a 5th-year senior. You have three years of experience under your belt in two games. You can’t do that. The hardest part is sitting there and knowing you’re going to take your lumps. It’s like watching a baby walk for the first time. You can’t sit there and hold its hand. They know they have to get better. They know it’s going to be tough. They know they have to come in and out every day and put in the work to get better.”

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MSSU football visits Joplin area elementary schools

JOPLIN, Mo. – The Missouri Southern football team visited three Joplin-area elementary schools during lunch and recess on Friday.

“I never had anything like this,” says senior wide receiver, Brian Boyd Jr. “I hope this gives them an opportunity to look up to us and want to be either football players or whatever they want to be in life.”

“My dad had me meet one of the football players and it was the coolest moment of my life,” says freshman running back Nathan Glades. “They’re older, they have the jersey…Now I get to do the same thing for them.”

The players were met with excitement and awe.

“You don’t know what kind of lifestyle these little kids have, so when you are able to come out here and give them something or some one to inspire them to be better and do better things, it’s good for their heart,” Glades says.

The kids were also given golden tickets that are redeemable for free entry to the Lions’ home opener on Saturday.

“This is the first game since 2019 that is going to be at home, so I’m expecting a good turnout and I know the team is too. That’s another reason why we came out,” Boyd says. “To give the children tickets and give them the opportunity to come out to the game as well.”

Glades is Joplin High School alum. For him, having the community support means a lot.

“My entire life I’ve had the Joplin community behind my back throughout high school, middle school, JYFA,” Glades says. “If we can get the Joplin community out and do what they do best, cheer on their teams, I think we’ll have a great outcome.”

Missouri Southern’s home opener against Northeastern State will kick off at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday afternoon in Joplin.

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Lions prepare for first home game since 2019

JOPLIN, Mo. – The Missouri Southern Lions will be in action at home this weekend, hosting the Northeastern State Riverhawks.

Both teams are searching for their first win of the season. Missouri Southern fell on the road in their season opener last Thursday 38-0 to Nebraska-Kearney.

For Missouri Southern, Saturday’s game will be their first home game since November 9th, 2019. The team is excited to play in front of their home crowd for the first time in nearly two years – and they’re expecting a loud and fun atmosphere.

“I’m pretty excited. For us seniors, it’s been two years,” says senior tight end Keandre Bledsoe, “To actually be able to play on our home field feels good. We’ve been looking forward to it and looking forward to showing out for the fans.”

“I think it’s going to be a great crowd,” says head coach Atiba Bradley, “I think there’s going to be a lot of energy and I think it’s going to be a fun time.”

“It’s been two years. We’ve all been working and sacrificing time, in the weight room, on the field and off the field as student athletes,” says junior defensive lineman Solomon Garcia, “We’ve been working a lot to show everybody what we got.”

While the team is excited to be back on the field at Fred G. Hughes Stadium – playing at home also comes with a little added pressure.

“There’s that added sense of pressure, when all of the sudden some of your peers are sitting in the stands,” Bradley says, “Your mom and dad come to watch the game, your girlfriend or your co-worker. Everybody that you see on a daily basis is now saying “Hey, we’ll be at the game.” The thing we’ve been preaching for these guys is to understand is they just have to go about their business the same way. Don’t get too high and don’t get too low. It’s another game and another opportunity to go out and showcase our talents.”

Saturday’s game will begin at 2 PM.

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MSSU volleyball begins practice; excited for return to fall schedule

JOPLIN, Mo. – The Missouri Southern Lions hit the floor on Wednesday for their first day of volleyball practice.

“We have a lot of new girls on our team. Finding our groove and stuff like that is really cool,” says senior Brooklynn McCain, “A lot of us returners have been here all summer working out and stuff. It’s nice to be able to be in the gym and put all that work into practice.”

The Lions were not able to play in the fall of 2020, after COVID-19 erased their season – However they did play a spring schedule, going 6-12 overall with a 5-3 mark against MIAA opponents.

“We didn’t keep stats last year. We didn’t have the true All-Conference team, the championship and all that,” says head coach Kalie Mader, “Even though we got to play an extended off-season, I think this still feels like we haven’t done this preseason thing in so long.”

Missouri Southern opens the season on September 3rd, playing in the Drury Invitational.

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MSSU football sets new culture under Atiba Bradley

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Missouri Southern gears up for it’s first full season since going 2-9 in 2019. Now it’s time for an new era of Lions football under head coach Atiba Bradley.

“That was one of the first things I wanted to do when I got there was create a culture of competition,” Bradley says. “Whether it’s at quarterback, whether it’s at defensive back, offensive line… You’ll find that the best teams in this league have competition at every position.”

The Lions quickly got to work. Bradley was hired in February and the team turned around to play its one and only spring game in March.

“It was very important as an evaluation,” Bradley says. “It gave us an idea of where we were as a football team. They had gone almost a full year without any competition. Just being able to go back out there, hit someone other than your teammates, compete against someone other than your teammates… I think that was a good feeling for them.”

“We can work harder at a lot of things that we did in that game, but I know for sure that that was base that we set and now we just have to work and build ground from there,” says senior defensive back, Malachi Broadnax.

There is a new set of expectations.

“We’re just developing our standard of football and making sure we always meet or exceed our standard,” Bradley says.

Bradley returns to his alma mater to reinvigorate the program.

“Now to come back as a coach I’m able to see the other side of it,” Bradley says. “I think I have an interesting perspective and now I can put both together and figure out a way to be more successful at Missouri Southern.”

His team is excited to see what they can make of it.

“We haven’t stopped talking about it since June started, since we’ve all been able to come together and see each other,” Broadnax says. “I know for a fact the players and the coaches are excited to see what we’re going to do this season.”

The Lions play their season opener on September 2nd at Nebraska-Kearney.

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Missouri Southern softball hosts “Little Lions” camp

JOPLIN, Mo. – Missouri Southern softball hit the field Tuesday night with the next generation of local ballplayers.

The Lions hosted “Little Lions” camp Tuesday. It’s a camp that teaches fundamentals of the game for players ages 6-12, while also giving the Missouri Southern players a chance to interact with the kids and give back to the community.

“It’s just awesome to see the girls around our area and to show them our love for the game,” says MSSU pitcher Bailey Lacy.

“It’s just fun to see that the girls are taking an interest in softball,” adds MSSU junior Ashlynn Williams, “You grow up and you’re like this sport is so much fun. It’s cool to see that they’re having so much fun doing it, too. Once you fall in love with softball, that love just doesn’t go away.”

“They get to see how we interact with each other, and they get to see that it’s not always super serious and super strict,” Lacy finishes, “We have so much fun doing this. It’s what we love to do all day.”

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MSSU’s Parish preps for shot at pro baseball with Texas Rangers

JOPLIN, Mo. – A lot has changed for Zach Parish in the last week.

“Five days ago, I kind of announced that I was going to step away from baseball and move on with the next chapter of my life,” Parish says.

20 rounds of the MLB Draft finished up last Tuesday – without Parish receiving a call or hearing his name called.

“It was a little discouraging at times,” Parish says, “The third day rolled around and you’re expecting something, at least a phone call saying we got you on our radar and we’re thinking about taking you. Not hearing that, it was kind of just like, man…”

It all changed on Sunday morning, with the Missouri Southern standout agreeing to a free agent contract with the Texas Rangers.

“The free agency deal kind of popped up at the last second. It was like yeah, I gotta do this,” Parish adds, “All I needed was a chance, and I’m thankful that I’m getting one.”

“He’s definitely deserving,” says Missouri Southern head baseball coach Bryce Darnell, “We’re excited as a program and we’re excited for Zach. We’re anxious to see him get started.”

He was the consensus Division II National Pitcher of the Year this season, and set a new Division II career strikeouts record.

But what he did on the field was a product of how he approached the game outside the lines.

“After a start here, he would go to the weight room and as the opposing bus is leaving he would be out there on the football field working with our strength and conditioning coach getting ready for his next start,” Darnell says of Parish, “He’s just an animal as far as work ethic goes, and he definitely left his mark.”

It’s that work ethic and competitive spirit Parish will take with him to Texas – hoping to one day get his shot at the biggest stage in baseball.

“The Rangers are definitely getting a competitor,” Parish says, “I love nothing but competition. I strive for competition. If someone wants to challenge me, I’m going to take it up and put my best foot forward. They’re going to get a winner as well.”

“He’ll represent himself well, and he’ll represent our school well,” Darnell adds, “Zach is a great pitcher, and I really think he’ll do well.”

“If it works out, it works out,” Parish finishes, “If not, at least I’ll know I gave it my best shot.”

Parish will head to Texas on Tuesday to sign his contract, and find out where and what level he’ll begin his professional baseball journey.

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Catching up with former Pitt State head softball coach Elizabeth Economon

JOPLIN, Mo. – Former Pitt state head coach Elizabeth Economon is continuing her rise in the college softball world – being elevated to Associate Head Coach for Wichita State softball last week.

“It shows you loyalty and old age,” Economon says with a laugh, “It shows time put in and caring about a program that you’re a part of,” she adds of her promotion, “I really enjoy working with coach Bredbenner and our new pitching coach. We have a great thing going. To be a part of that and to be loyal to that group means a lot to me. We had a great season. We’re coming off one of our best seasons in school history. We’re hoping to keep that going. Wichita has been good to me and my family.”

Coach Economon was back in the 4-state area Tuesday for a skills camp at Missouri Southern.

“I miss being down here and seeing all the people that we spent so much time with,” Economon says of being back in the area, “It’s always good to get back and see everybody, but there’s good softball down here. I feel like southeast Kansas sometimes gets the quick once-over. There are kids that come from small towns in Oklahoma and small towns in Missouri and Kansas that maybe don’t get recognized initially, but they’re there and you just have to find them.”

Economon left Pitt State in 2017 after 6 years as head coach.

She won more than 200 games at PSU (204-131).

While she’s moved on to Wichita and the Division I level, she still keeps tabs on the Gorillas and the rest of the MIAA.

(Economon) “I always keep an eye on the MIAA. I obviously follow everybody that’s been in the league for a while, and coach Blackney here at Southern I’ve known for a long time,” Economon says, “I’m excited about the success that she’s had with her program, almost immediately. It’s exciting to see the teams you used to compete against have success. When you’re not there it feels a lot better to cheer for them. I’m excited about the direction Pitt State’s going in. I hope things go well.”

Economon is entering her 5th season at Wichita State. The Shockers were 41-13-1 this season, winning both the American Athletic Conference regular season and postseason tournament titles.