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MU volleyball seeks consistency at home

Sunday, September 21, 2008 | 8:46 p.m. CDT
Catie Wilson, a sophomore, prepares to block an attempted kill from Briana Tolbert, a Baylor freshman, during the first MU home game at Hearnes Center on Sunday afternoon. MU lost four sets: 22-25, 23-25, 25-23 and 22-25.

COLUMBIA  — According to MapQuest, the MU volleyball team traveled 8,716 miles to and from road matches before its home opener.

"It's nice to play at home and have all the fans," sophomore libero Caitlyn Vann said. "We haven't had that for, I don't even know how many games, forever. So it was really nice to come out and show the crowd what we're about."

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In front of 2,061 fans in its home opener Sunday, the team lost to Baylor 25-22, 25-23, 23-25, 25-22. While the front row featured returning players, Vann was part of a back row that featured new faces. She is in her first season as the Tigers' libero, and two defensive specialists, Annie Lopez and Priscilla Armendariz, are freshmen.

"Although they're good players, you're still young," Missouri coach Wayne Kreklow said. "And what you kind of miss is that savvy play, the recognizing what's going to happen on the other side. What kind of ball am I going to get coming over? How can I prepare myself to get there early? Just a lot of little things."

The team dropped to 5-6 and 0-2 in the Big 12. Armendariz said she is much more comfortable 11 matches into the season than she was at the beginning.

"My first day of two-a-days, I was so nervous," she said. "I didn't know what to expect. But now, being on the team, it's a lot easier just to flow with the girls."

Vann said she was happy with the performance of the two freshmen.

"I think Annie especially did a really good job of playing her position," Vann said. "It seemed like she was just always in the right spot at the right time and made a lot of momentum-changing plays."

Vann is familiar with the freshmen's position. With former Tiger Tatum Ailes playing libero, she served as a defensive specialist her freshman year.

"I remember last year, it was always hard for me to adjust to how they wanted us to play middle back, how they wanted us to play right back," she said. "But I think (the freshmen have) done a good job adjusting to it. I think they're starting to feel more comfortable in those positions."

The past three weekends, the team has played in tournaments on the road. That meant leaving on Thursday mornings, playing three road matches and not getting back until after the weekend. But this Thursday, there was no traveling, just another day in Columbia.

"It was awesome," Armendariz said. "Not going on those four-day travel trips really gives us a lot more energy and lets our bodies rest for at least one big game."

Kreklow said his team did well serving the ball, with eight aces and only four errors. But he said his team was still too inconsistent.

"My honest feeling is I think we have a difficulty concentrating, you know, for a long period of time," he said. "We do well for a couple of touches, and then somebody gets caught. And it's never the same person."

 


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