Armendariz finds new family on MU volleyball team

Thursday, October 2, 2008 | 8:11 p.m. CDT; updated 3:05 a.m. CDT, Friday, October 3, 2008
MU freshman Priscilla Armendariz, center, celebrates winning a point with teammates Lei Wang, left, and Megan Wilson in the Tigers’ victory against Iowa State on Wednesday at the Hearnes Center.

COLUMBIA — In what little free time she gets, Priscilla Armendariz likes to watch "Jon and Kate Plus 8," a TV show on TLC about a family with eight young children, including sextuplets.

The show strikes a chord with Armendariz, a freshman defensive specialist for Missouri, who grew up in a large extended family.

"I have a lot of little cousins," she said. "I don't even know half their names."

Armendariz's grandparents live next door to her family in Blue Springs, Mo., and their backyards have been combined into a volleyball court.

When she first got to Missouri and had two-a-day practices, being away from her family was an aggravating factor in a difficult transition.

"Just physically, my body has never been used to anything like that," Armendariz said."Being down here with no family, not knowing anyone, it was really hard."

Armendariz talks to her mother, Angie, every day.

"She stayed with the volleyball girls that she did not even know," her mother said. "She struggled."

Since two-a-day practices, Priscilla Armendariz has become part of a new type of family with some of her teammates. Along with fellow freshman defensive specialist Annie Lopez, sophomore libero Caitlyn Vann and assistant coach Chen Feng, she is part of "the DS family," or defensive specialist family.

"We're like the three little ones on the team, and Chen Feng is like our little leader," Priscilla Armendariz said. "We're always with Chen Feng."

Vann said the group's chemistry off the court has helped on the court.

"It makes it easier when you have people back there that you enjoy working with," Vann said. "That's one thing, I enjoyed working with people last year, but I wasn't as close with them as I am this year. ... It makes my job a lot more fun."

Priscilla Armendariz has also had another change since two-a-days. She has dreaded practices her whole life, and now the team has been playing two matches or more every week instead of just practicing every day.

"In a game, there's always something to work so hard for," she said.

Priscilla Armendariz has played in all 14 of the team's matches, and started in three of the Tigers' four Big 12 Conference matches.

A few months before the season, she was considering not playing at all. She was concerned about balancing a sport and academics in college.

"College is tough, it's not easy like high school was," she said. "So I was worried about that."

Throughout the process, her family encouraged her to play.

"Half of me wanted to make her ... 'Do you know how many girls would love to be in your position?' But I knew, at 18, I couldn't make her."

One morning in the spring, Priscilla Armendariz woke up and was suddenly set on playing. She sent her mother a text message.

"I texted her back, ‘What?' She goes, ‘You heard me,'" Angie Armendariz said.

Angie then texted Priscilla's father and uncle, she said, and none of them believed Priscilla was going to play.

Since making up her mind, Priscilla Armendariz said she has not wavered from her decision, even during two-a-days.

"I never went back and forth or anything,"she said. "I was just like, ‘No, this is what I want.'"

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