By Tom Emery
Freshman Brianna Henke of Mount Olive saw a lot of action in two sports at Blackburn College this year.
In the fall, Henke, a 5’10 middle hitter, appeared in 24 matches for the Blackburn volleyball team and picked up 50 kills on the year. She also added a total of 41 digs to go along with 12 service aces.
“Brianna originally came to Blackburn to play basketball, and figured she’d try volleyball here as well,” said second-year Blackburn head coach Jim Hunstein. “We’re very glad she did. She had a better serve and plays better defense than a lot of middles, so she provides a lot in the back row.”
An experienced leader who came to Blackburn after three seasons as head volleyball and women’s tennis coach at Lewis and Clark Community College, Hunstein led Blackburn to a 9-19 mark last fall, the most wins for the program since the 2000 season. The Beavers concluded their season with five wins in their last eight matches.
Henke then switched her attention to basketball and played in 24 games, with three starts, for Blackburn, averaging 3.8 points and 2.8 rebounds per contest. She led the Beavers in field-goal percentage with 54.4 percent on the season.
She recorded nine points in Blackburn’s 68-46 win at Robert Morris College in Springfield on January 23 and had eight points in Blackburn’s St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference game at Iowa Wesleyan on January 31.
“Brianna had a very good start to her Blackburn career,” said first-year Blackburn head coach Jim Chandler. “She was a key member of a freshman group that had several contributors to this year’s team.”
A three-year starter for the men’s basketball team at Blackburn in the late 1980s, Chandler returned to Blackburn after a lengthy career in coaching and school administration in Missouri.
Chandler coached both boys’ and girls’ basketball and compiled a career record of 203-100 at five different high schools in Missouri, including two Final Four appearances at state tournaments.
Blackburn collected nine SLIAC regular-season and tournament titles between 1990-97 and played in five straight National Small College Athletic Association tournaments from 1990-94, winning a national title in 1993.