The all-time setting assist leader of the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) and the league’s player of the year in 2008 will take over the Southwestern Community College volleyball program next week.
Ting Liu, most recently an assistant coach at Division I nationally-qualifier Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College, begins duties Monday at SWCC as a residence hall coordinator at Spartan Hall and head volleyball coach.
She succeeds Melissa Blessington, whose swift rebuilding effort in three years culminated in a fifth-place finish at the Division II national tournament last fall. Blessington led the team to a 37-10 mark in 2013 to finish a three-year overall record of 72-52. She earned Region D Coach of the Year honors.
Bill Krejci, SWCC athletic director, said Liu is moving to Creston with her husband, Liang Zhang, who was a graduate assistant coach at Emporia State. He is finishing his graduate work, while Liu recently completed her master’s degree.
Krejci said Liu was one of two candidates interviewed from a larger pool of viable applicants, and he came away convinced she is the perfect choice to continue building what Blessington developed in her three years.
“She interviewed really well and brings a background of volleyball from the time she was about 6 years old,” Krejci said, “through her club teams in China, then playing semi-professionally before she came over to the (United) States and went to Emporia State. She was a two-time All-American and the all-time assists leader in the MIAA.”
Liu has been the assistant volleyball coach at Hutchinson Community College for one year. Before that, she was a graduate assistant at Emporia State for the volleyball team while completing her master’s degree in health, physical education and recreation. She has a bachelor’s degree in business and accounting from Emporia State.
Liu has coached club volleyball and assisted with camps at Emporia State, Hutchinson Community College and University of Missouri.
Before beginning her coaching career, Liu had significant playing experience in China and the United States. She was a member of the Beijing women’s volleyball team from 2001-2005, a volunteer player for the U.S. national women’s volleyball team in 2006, and a member of the Emporia State University team from 2007-2010.
She was the MIAA player of the year in 2008 and freshman of the year in 2007.
“Coach Liu brings a burning passion for excellence to the volleyball program at Southwestern,” Krejci said. “I am confident she will continue the academic and athletic success associated with SWCC volleyball.”
Blessington coached 10 Academic All-Region players during her time at SWCC.
Krejci said the college is in communication with high school players who were planning to play at SWCC under Blessington, as well as the few freshmen who were on the 2013 Spartan roster. Among those is All-American setter Cassidy Yong.
In the meantime, Liu has recruiting duties as soon as she gets on campus, Krejci said.
“I know she’s anxious to get started, and we’re thankful Hutchinson released her early so she could join us right away,” Krejci said. “We might get into the international market a little bit, which if you’ve seen the teams in our league lately, is becoming more prevalent.”