COLUMBIA — Lauren Nuckolls and Catie Wilson don't remember how "Elbow Love" started last year, though Wilson says it might have been accidental.
Regardless, the pair of Missouri volleyball players have kept the elbow-bumping ritual as their handshake. "Elbow Love," involves the two players staying side-by-side and bumping elbows. As the elbows bump, both players make a squeaking noise. Nuckolls' handshake repertoire only expanded from there.
"Everyone else kind of wanted to be in our group, I guess," Nuckolls said.
Now, when Nuckolls exits a match, she has a unique handshake with each of her teammates instead of the simple high-fives performed by the rest of the team.
"I like it," Nuckolls said. "I think it's fun. I do it because I enjoy it, and I think it makes it funner ... if we're on the bench and stuff it brings more energy and stuff than just normal high-fives."
Nuckolls sometimes has a hard time remembering the various rituals, and her routine with sophomore middle blocker Weiwen Wang can be inconsistent.
"I confuse Wendy (Wang) a lot," Nuckolls said. "Because I change ours up with Wendy a lot. It's funny, because she tries to mimic everything. But for the most part, since I pretty much do them all the time, even in practice I try to do them, so everyone has theirs pretty memorized."
Nuckolls doesn't always get the chance to exit a match and perform the rituals, but that doesn't limit her.
"We do them all the time," she said. "I do Jules' (Julianna Klein) and Lei (Wang's) before the game. If there's a timeout or if the game's over or someone's coming off the bench or out of the game, all the time basically."
While she played in seven of the nine sets in the team's past two matches, Nuckolls didn't play at all in the previous two matches.
"She hits the ball well," coach Wayne Kreklow said. "She's very aggressive, she's very competitive. And I think it's nice to have somebody like Lauren available to try to change things up. A lot of times when you're playing, having the ability to just throw a different look at somebody can be just enough to kind of jump start something."
When Nuckolls is on the bench, she is still focused on the match.
"She is always talking about what shots you can make," Wilson said. "Because sometimes it's easier to see it from an outside view than when you're actually on the court."
Wilson also describes Nuckolls, her roommate, as dramatic.
"Some things that aren't that big of a deal can come off as end of the world," she said.
Nuckolls said the presidential election is an example of her dramatic personality. Sen. John McCain had the support of the majority of the Missouri volleyball team. Nuckolls, a McCain supporter, said she led the argument against sophomore libero Caitlyn Vann, one of the team's few supporters of Sen. Barack Obama.
"I'm pretty much the bluntest person on our team," Nuckolls said. "So I just kind of throw out there how I feel, and that's probably why people say I'm sarcastic and stuff. Because I just kind of throw out how I feel."
Nuckolls and Vann often found themselves in back-and-forth debates on the subject.
"She'd be like ‘You're only voting for McCain because of your parents,'" Nuckolls said. "But I actually know why I was voting for McCain. I'd be like, ‘Why are you voting for Obama? Blah, blah, blah,' and she'd be like, ‘Uh, hold on,' and like run to the computer and she'd be like, ‘Well...'"
Vann said the debating stopped.
"Basically it's gotten to the point where we just can't talk about it," Vann said.
Nuckolls said the debate never got too serious.
"She's one of my really good friends," she said. "I joke around with her a lot about stuff and she comes back with things."
With the election coming to an end, Nuckolls said she doesn't foresee many arguments with Vann.
"We just always have tons of stuff going on," she said. "So we always are just talking about that. We don't argue very much, this is the only thing we've really argued about. She's one of my really good friends. It's just funny because we're both really sarcastic, outgoing people."
Like all of her teammates, Vann has a handshake ritual with Nuckolls. Each player crosses her arms into the shape of an X and they bump their arms together, though sometimes Nuckolls throws a curveball.
"If she's in a quiet mood, I just kind of do something weird and she'll be always be like, ‘You're so weird,'" Nuckolls said.