COLUMBIA — Julianna Klein never pretended things were easy.
The junior outside hitter has suffered from Mononucleosis for nearly a month now. She hadn’t played in a match or even practiced since Oct. 14. But after a three-match absence, she made her return to the court Wednesday night.
“It’s funny,” Klein said. “The sport of volleyball, it’s kind of special. When you don’t play for a couple of weeks, how much you really do lose. It’s such a touch sport with the ball. It’s all about your feeling. It’s so easy to loose that.”
Klein, who was the Tigers’ leading hitter before her hiatus, came off the bench in Missouri’s 25-21, 25-20, 25-18 sweep of Kansas State at Hearnes Center. She had four kills on the night, but coach Wayne Kreklow acknowledged that she won’t be her typical self out there for a while.
“She hasn’t really done anything for two weeks,” Kreklow said. “Stamina’s an issue. Strength’s an issue. It’s one thing to go back and start playing again. It’s quite another to have the kind of stamina and pop to pick up where you left off.”
Klein said she expects the symptoms to linger, but is ready to get back into playing shape.
“You don’t realize how much you lose stamina wise and endurance,” Klein said. “I’m really anxious to get back in and get in the weight room. Being able to get on the treadmill, as much as I hate running, it’s just something I need to do to get back into volleyball shape.”
While her symptoms trace back to the start of October, Klein said the viral infection “hit her like a brick wall” right after she watched the football team take on Nebraska in the pouring rain Oct. 8.
“For the first week, it was almost like I was narcoleptic,” Klein said. “I was falling asleep at any given minute. It’s kind of funny, but right now I’m not having a whole lot of trouble with that.”
Despite feeling sick, Klein played two games after the wet night in the stands of Memorial Stadium. She was officially diagnosed with Mono following a road loss to Kansas State on Oct. 14. Volleyball was totally out of the question as Klein struggled to even make it to class.
“It got to the point where I was sitting in class, and I couldn’t even focus,” she said. “I needed to go back to sleep. Just sitting there, being sick with just terrible fevers, upset stomach, an achy body. I mean nobody wants to sit in class when you feel like that.”
After not touching a volleyball for more than 10 days, Klein said she felt some rust in her return.
“You don’t play for a couple of days and you come back like ‘I don’t even remember how to play,’” Klein said. “It’s kind of a struggle, but to overcome it, I just try and play as smart as I can. I know that I don’t have my touch. I know that I don’t have the feel. I know I’m not jumping as high and hitting as hard, so I have to compensate by playing a little bit smarter.”
Watching her teammates step up throughout her absence has made Klein eager for what’s to come when she returns to full health.
“When I can fully come back, I think it will be a lot of fun to see us spread the offense out and for teams to try and stop us,” she said.