Klein steps up her defense for Missouri volleyball team

Saturday, September 18, 2010 | 10:40 p.m. CDT; updated 11:44 p.m. CDT, Saturday, September 18, 2010

COLUMBIA — She hadn’t been a back row player for the Missouri volleyball team until this year.

Senior outside hitter Julianna Klein set a goal for herself to become a player who could play in all six rotations, both front row and back row. She achieved that goal this season and is now a major contributor to Missouri’s back row defense.

“She’s really dialed in mentally to what she’s doing back there. She’s reading really well. She’s seeing what’s going on,” Tigers head coach Wayne Kreklow said after the Tigers' 16-25, 25-15, 25-18, 25-19 loss to No. 11 Iowa State on Saturday at Hearnes Center.

Klein contributed 11 digs in the loss. Her numbers were near the same as the defensive specialists’ numbers.

At 6 feet, Klein doesn’t look like your typical defensive player. Most defensive specialists are much shorter. But when she plays, she plays with passion and intelligence.

“Sometimes, physically she doesn’t make the play, but what I’ve got to give her a lot of credit for is if she’s not making the play, it’s a physical thing,” Kreklow said. “It’s not a mental lapse.”

Throughout Missouri’s game against the Cyclones, Klein could be seen chasing down balls and throwing herself across the floor to save balls.

Klein said she enjoys how she can see everything from the back row, and she uses her experience as a hitter to understand where she should be on the court as a defensive player.

“I really key in on the hitter,” Klein said. “I put myself in their shoes. I’m like, ‘If I was that hitter, where would I hit?’"

As a senior, Klein is seen as a team leader, and teammates are looking to her even more because she is always on the court playing in all six positions.

“She’s someone you can count on. She’s never going to be that person to bring the team down,” senior defensive specialist Vann said. “When we were in a tough position, we could always send the ball to her and count on her to keep it in play or make a good shot for us.”

Klein said she likes the challenge of the back row.

“Playing in the back row is really exciting, and I’d almost rather be back there than I would in the front row,” Klein said. “It’s not that hitting is old news or getting a kill is old news, but it’s so much more exciting and more fulfilling to dig up a huge hard-hit ball.”

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