Tigers freshman finds role on bench

Wednesday, November 19, 2008 | 10:03 p.m. CST; updated 12:23 a.m. CST, Thursday, November 20, 2008
Missouri freshman Allison Johnson watches from the bench during the Tigers' game against Kansas State on Wednesday at Hearnes Center. Johnson is likely to claim a redshirt this season.

COLUMBIA — The Missouri volleyball team experienced its ups and downs during its five-set loss to Kansas State on Wednesday night. In the third set, the Tigers went on an eight-point run en route to a set win. The Wildcats had a four-point run in the fifth set to finish their 21-25, 25-19, 12-25, 25-20, 15-12 victory at Hearnes Center.

During both runs, freshman Allison Johnson was in her position — standing in a warm-up jacket on the sideline.

Johnson, a 6-foot-4 inch middle blocker from Sycamore, Ill., has yet to play in a match this season. Tigers coach Wayne Kreklow said he doesn’t anticipate playing her this season and that she will likely redshirt. Johnson said she deals with mixed emotions when she heads out of the locker room with the team.  

“It’s exciting, being a part of the team, a college team, obviously, that I’ve never been a part of before,” Johnson said. “But it just makes me want to play so bad, and, I guess that’s all I can really say is I’m standing there wanting to be in the whole time, of course.”

Johnson said she is learning to contribute by having input for her teammates when they return to the bench.

“Ever since I’ve been here I think I’ve gotten better at communicating and knowing what to say,” Johnson said. “That’s a big thing. Sometimes I’m quiet because I’m not in a drill, I’m not in a game, so what can I do? But I’ve learned that there’s always things I can say.”

Junior Lauren Nuckolls was in a similar position last season. Although she played in a match last season, she spent most of the season on the bench. Nuckolls said the team encouraged Johnson to speak up.

“She just doesn’t know what she can say or what she should say,” Nuckolls said. “I think she just gets more nervous than anything. But we just kind of let her know, like reassure her that her talking is better than anything. Even if she’s saying the wrong thing or something, it’s way better than her just standing there not talking.”

When Johnson started to wonder if she would redshirt during the beginning of the conference portion of the season, she talked to some of her teammates that had redshirted in the past, including juniors Megan Wilson, Amanda Hantouli and Lei Wang.

“It’s not an unusual thing (redshirting),” Johnson said. “That makes me feel better about it, how good they are right now. They were in my position once.”

After Wednesday’s match, coach Wayne Kreklow said his team was too conservative at times.

“I think that’s part of it,” he said. “.…The bottom line is if you want to win games like that, you’ve got to be in system. If you play it safe, you’re going to lose, that’s a given.”

After the third set, Missouri was holding a 2-1 set lead.

“The match was lost in Game 4,” Kreklow said. “That’s where we had an opportunity and we just didn’t capitalize. We had them down, we came out and just played exceptionally well and served them off the court in Game 3. We set ourselves up at home in Game 4. But we came out really flat.”

The Tigers fell to 13-14 and 7-10 in the Big 12 Conference. They play at 7 p.m. Saturday at Baylor.

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