COLUMBIA — Approximately 30 minutes before each match, the Missouri volleyball team divides into pairs to warm up. While the assignments can be random, most players find another that plays the same or similar position.
Lei Wang does not have that luxury. As the only setter on the team, the junior has to look elsewhere for a warm-up partner. That's where Lindsey Hunter comes in.
Hunter, a student assistant and former setter for the Tigers who last played in 2005, is Wang's warm-up partner.
"I don't feel lonely anymore," Wang said. "It's not by myself. I feel like there's somebody supporting me. I just feel grateful that she's back."
On Saturday night, Wang had 52 assists and four kills after warming up with Hunter before the team's 25-15, 21-25,25-14, 25-17 win against Texas Tech at Hearnes Center.
When the team scrimmages in practice, Wang is often one team's setter while Hunter is the opponent. Both players said they view the position as an equivalent to the quarterback position in football. So when their teams are competing against each other in practice, Wang said she sometimes views scrimmages as competition against Hunter.
"I like to be challenged," Wang said. "Which she does challenge me. So, that's how I get improved."
This season isn't the first where Wang has gotten to compete against Hunter in practice. In 2005, Hunter was a senior when Wang was in her redshirt season.
"We were still competing with each other," Wang said. "Although I wasn't that great."
Hunter said the competition didn't turn into a serious rivalry.
"We were competing against each other but we were still really good friends," she said. "And so, it wasn't like we were rivals or anything. So that's always good, because that makes her comfortable being able to compete and me comfortable being able to compete."
Since her career at Missouri, Hunter spent time on the USA Volleyball National Team, competing in the 2007 Pan American Games before returning to Columbia to continue her education.
"I was really excited," Wang said. "Because she was on the national team for so long. And what she learned from there I can learn from her."
Since setter is her old position, Hunter views coaching Wang as her primary responsibility.
"I think she kind of looks at me kind of as a mentor," Hunter said. "And since I am the same position, I can offer her insight on certain things. Like, broad range of things, whether it's mental or physical."
Kreklow said he views Hunter as a complement to assistant coach Deng Yang, who works with Wang.
"You need for her to relate," Kreklow said. "She's (Hunter) a little bit younger than everybody else and I think it just gives Lei a good perspective. Another person to bounce things off of and, again, Lindsey is in a good position just to give Lei feedback on things she sees."
Kreklow said the setter position is a relatively low-risk position when it comes to injuries. And even though they aren't officially setters, freshman Priscilla Armendariz and junior Megan Wilson have experience at the position. But Wang said she still feels some pressure as the only setter on the team.
"I have to take care of myself, extra-careful out of people," she said. "Because I know there's no backup."
While Luiza Jarocka was a second setter for the team Wang's sophomore year, Wang was also the only setter her freshman year.
"I'm just used to it," she said.