Rival high school foes become inseparable on volleyball court

Henning and Armendariz have bumped, set and struck their way to a lasting friendship.
Coach Wayne Kreklow talks strategy with Lisa Henning on Sept. 24 at the Hearnes Center. Henning was named Big 12 Player of the Week this week. Maneater File Photo

Growing up, MU volleyball players Lisa Henning and Priscilla Armendariz lived on opposite ends of town. They were never too far from one another, but attended rival high schools. That rivalry alone made them enemies.

The teammates talked about those days Monday after their team’s victory over Central Arkansas. For both, those days feel distant.

“My mom still always talks about it,” Armendariz said. “She always asks, ‘Isn’t it ironic that one of your enemies in high school is now your best friend?’”

Henning played at Blue Springs High School. Armendariz played at Blue Springs South.

Henning, a sophomore, has established herself as Missouri’s key player this year. As of Thursday, the hitter led the Big 12 Conference in total kills with 364. She was named Big 12 Player of the Week this week.

After coming into the program a shy, more reserved freshman, Henning is now feared for what her right arm is capable of doing when it swings at a ball.

It seems contradictory how she connected so well with Armendariz, a junior, who was widely considered the most vocal and outgoing player on the team upon Henning's arrival. Perhaps it was the connection shared from growing up in the same town. Maybe it was the joint carpooling from Columbia.

“We figured out we had a lot more in common, just little by little,” Armendariz said.

Soon after, they figured they wanted to be roommates, which Armendariz said was a “no-brainer" decision. They live together in an off-campus apartment where they eat the same types of food, enjoy solving puzzles, watch movies and break out their “Law and Order” box sets.

“Pretty much, we have the same brain,” Henning said.

They are capable of finishing each other’s sentences. On the court, the two seem to share an intuitive link.

Henning, shouldering a big responsibility on a team with only two seniors, has been more involved in the backline on defense. She has been playing right next to Armendariz, the team’s libero, who reached seventh place on MU's all-time digs mark after Sunday’s match against Texas Tech.

“I think we’re pretty dynamic together,” Henning said. “I always know where she’s going to be. I feel like I always have a sense of where she is and even when she’s not looking for me, she’ll know where I am. She just knows.”

Defense is not the only lesson Henning says that Armendariz has taught her.

Henning has always been hard on herself. With all the stellar plays Henning has made this season, the ones that stand out most to her are the ones she regrets.

“I just don’t like making mistakes,” she said. “I know when I make them and I always catch myself. It gets in my head a lot and I put myself down. But it’s good to have ‘Pip’ around who’s always there to tell me, ‘You’re fine, who cares, you’re awesome.’”

Off the court, the pair is seemingly attached at the hip. On the court, when Henning spends time on the backline, they can be seen playing right next to each other.

“We kind of just come as one,” Armendariz said.

Henning reiterated her teammate.

“Two-in-one,” Henning said, laughing. “Both or none.”

The two question what they will do when they are separated next year, when Armendariz returns to Kansas City for graduate school.

“Oh,” Henning said. She looked at Armendariz. “Um…”

Armendariz was also lost for words.

“We don’t have to talk about that,” Armendariz said.

Distance has never been a problem for these two.

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