Laurie Sisk: A tip of the cap to MSSU student-athletes who will be missed

May 30—The end of each academic year brings for this sportswriter a realization that I will no longer get to witness the athletic prowess of so many Missouri Southern State University graduating seniors who, for the past few years, have wowed me with their talents, personalities and devotion to their teammates.

With that also comes a time of reflection and the realization that these athletes deserve thanks from fans, coaches — and yes, sportswriters.

While the athletes I mention have left an indelible impression on me over the past few years, each and every graduating Lion deserves a round of applause for their dedication to their teammates, fans and school.

The impressions they have left on me are not based solely on statistics, but on the intanglibles that make these talented athletes more than just performers on a court or a field.

Fernanda Canedo

I'll start my thank you tour with someone who I believe is the most passionate Lion athlete I have encountered — Southern volleyball player Fernanda Canedo.

Canedo, a Cochabamba, Bolivia, transfer from Mid-America Nazarene, came to MSSU in 2022 and brought with her an intensity and passion that helped form the building blocks for the program's future success.

She led the team in kills last season, but more importantly, led the team emotionally. There was no bigger advocate for Lion volleyball than Canedo — she was the quintessential teammate. On more than one occasion she told me that the most important thing she could do was put on a good show for her fans.

And she did. For that, I tip my cap to Canedo and thank her for sharing her talents with us over the past two years.

Winston Dessesow

Also on my list of all-star teammates is men's basketball player Winston Dessesow, not because of his stats but what he brought to the team in so many immeasurables. Dessesow just seemed to me the kind of player who would accept any role, anytime, as long as it helped his team in any way.

I was impressed by his attitude on and off the court, whether it be visiting kids at a local elementary or helping lead the Lions to a win on the court. His infectious smile and positive attitude have etched their way into my memory. He won't be forgotten anytime soon.

Mira Khan

Big thanks also go out to MSSU women's basketball player Mira Khan. I was in awe of her maturation from her first season two years ago to what I saw on the court last year.

Khan, an Independence Community College transfer from Berlin, Germany, went from a somewhat quiet role player her first year to an absolute beast on the boards this year.

Her physical transformation was clear evidence of the work she put in during the offseason. It's quite the accomplishment — and something to be applauded — especially considering Khan graduated summa cum laude all while carrying a double major in criminal justice and psychology.

For being a great role-model for student-athletes, Khan, I tip my cap to you as well and offer gratitude for sharing your talents.

Henry Kusiak

Also on the list of "People I would love to be as smart as" is Lion baseball player Henry Kusiak. Also summa cum laude while majoring in biology, he will be remembered by me not for the numerous school records he broke but for his blue collar approach to the game.

Kusiak is not a flashy, verbose guy, but a teammate who put on his hardhat each and every day ready to go to work.

Kusiak spent his entire college career as a Lion and Warren Turner Field will seem a little empty without him for a little bit early next season.

Mr. Kusiak, thanks for the oohs and ahhs, and I tip my hardhat to you, sir.

Yazmin Vargas

Of all the athletes I will miss watching, Lion softball player Yazmin Vargas tops my list. She was quite simply electric.

As a photographer, I felt a little giddy each time she got on base — and that was quite often. I knew what would ensue would be a great opportunity for a pic of the prolific base stealer.

The tiny base thief from Garden City, Kansas, was aware of her main talent — speed. She was confident but never cocky and always brought a never-say-die attitude to the team.

Her bubbly, gracious and charismatic personality will not be forgotten anytime soon.

I thank you for the memories and tip my cap to you as well.

Tradgon McCrae

Concluding my list of "Oh, please, can't they stay just one more year?" is Southern golfer Tradgon McCrae.

McCrae helped lead his Lion teammates to two straight MIAA titles after several lean years for the program. It isn't his MIAA Golfer of the Year title two seasons ago I will remember most about McCrae. It is simply that he is one of the most pleasant kids I've met in a while.

I've run into McCrae a few times working at Twin Hills and he has always impressed me as a warm, polite individual, whose smile can change a person's day.

McCrae, keep that smile. I tip my cap to you and thank you for the way you make people feel. It is what I will remember most about you and your time at MSSU.

This in no way an exhaustive list of the athletes that I will miss covering — just some of my favorites. To all graduated Lion athletes, I wish you all the very best in life. Thanks for the memories, each and everyone of you.

Please stay tuned for a list of some of my favorite area prep athletes — coming to a Globe column sometime soon.