COLUMBIA — For Ashton Bodenstab, playing volleyball for Missouri seemed like an unachievable dream.
When she enrolled as a freshman at MU, she didn’t intend to be a student athlete. Then she received a phone call from MU track and field coach Brett Halter, and before she knew it, she was training for the heptathlon.
Kansas Jayhawks (13-9, 4-7 Big 12)
at Missouri Tigers (13-8, 5-6 Big 12)
WHEN: 6:30 p.m.
WHERE: Hearnes Center
Missouri is in fifth in the Big 12 and has gone 3-3 in its past six matches.
Bodenstab, now a defensive specialist for the Missouri, never thought she would have the opportunity to play volleyball for the Tigers. But in a roundabout way, she was able to achieve her childhood dream.
“It was kind of far-fetched for me to be playing here,” Bodenstab said before practice Monday, explaining how Missouri has always had a packed roster of talented defensive specialists. But wearing a gold Missouri practice jersey and kneepads, she is the picture of a Missouri volleyball player.
Always an athlete, Bodenstab started out as a gymnast.
“I was just flippin’ around the house when I was little,” Bodenstab said, giggling.
She competed in gymnastics until the age of 12, when she decided to give volleyball a try. She admired her older sister, Whitney Bodenstab, who played volleyball in middle school and inspired her to start playing.
Bodenstab played club volleyball and high school ball, earning first team all-district and second team all-state honors during her senior season in 2008 at Blue Springs High School.
Then she found herself throwing javelin at MU.
Halter regularly contacts former high school all-state athletes in baseball and volleyball, like Bodenstab, who attend MU but don't participate in athletics. Because the javelin throw is similar to movements made by volleyball and baseball athletes, he invites them to try throwing javelin.
“They wanted me to come and do some trial stuff with throwing javelin,” Bodenstab said of the MU track and field coaches. “The volleyball swing is kind of like throwing javelin in a certain way, and they knew I was pretty athletic."
After Bodenstab completed tests to showcase her athleticism, the track and field coaches switched her from training for the javelin to the heptathlon. She redshirted her first year with the team to gain footing in a new sport in which she had never participated.
Of the seven events in the heptathlon, the high jump was one of her favorites. Doing back flips on the mat to practice for the high jump, she was able to return to her roots as a gymnast.
“Track was great,” Bodenstab said. “I learned a lot about track, but also about being a D-I athlete.” Being on the team gave her the opportunity to learn how to manage her time as a student-athlete and juggle school, practice and a social life.
Then last spring, Missouri volleyball coach Wayne Kreklow invited Bodenstab to try out with the volleyball team because he knew she had received all-state honors for volleyball in high school. Bodenstab had also played on the club team of Missouri volleyball middle blocker Lindsey Petrick. Kreklow was looking for another defensive specialist, and Bodentstab fit the bill.
"She’s a very competitive player,” Kreklow said. “I think she’s a very well grounded player.”
Kreklow said he appreciates her positive attitude and her willingness to work hard in practices. It helps bring the team’s play to a higher level.
Even though she has only seen playing time in a few matches, Bodenstab isn’t discouraged. She says she sees herself staying with the team for years to come.
“I love volleyball. I love the team atmosphere,” Bodenstab said. “You can never beat the feeling of being on a team.”
The team is also one she has followed for a long time. Before coming to MU, her parents would drive her from Blue Springs to Columbia to watch the Missouri volleyball team play opponents like Texas and Kansas State.
“It’s just amazing that I’m here and reached one of my goals that I set a long time ago that I thought I would never reach,” Bodenstab said. “I got it finally, and now I’m just trying to work hard to keep it in my grasp.”