COLUMBIA — For Catie Wilson, nothing beats blocking.
Arms stretched high into the air, jumping as high as she can with her fingers spread far apart, she sends a ball hit by Kansas ricocheting back onto the Jayhawks’ side of the court. She turns around to face her teammates and bends over in celebration, including her trademark fist pump.
Missouri vs. Kansas State
WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Hearnes Center
"I love getting blocks, it's one of my favorite aspects of volleyball," said Wilson, who finished with five blocks.
Wilson's block early in the second set was a key play in helping the Tigers rally from a three-point deficit. It also showed that Missouri’s hard work on blocking is paying off. The Tigers beat Kansas 25-23, 25-21, 28-26 on Wednesday, and Wilson and two other Missouri players had five or more blocks.
“We’ve really been focusing on it the past couple weeks,” Wilson, a senior middle blocker, said. “We’ve done tons and tons of blocking stuff."
That work came during practice, as players stood on boxes at the net and worked solely on upper body movements, explained freshman Molly Kreklow. Kreklow had a career-high six blocks during the match.
Shoulder to shoulder, arms reaching over the net, Kreklow and junior middle blocker Brittney Brimmage stopped hit after hit from crossing over to Missouri’s side of the net.
Brimmage’s determination to block kept her working hard throughout the match.
“I just think, ‘Yeah, I got that block. Come at me again, I’m gonna block it again,’” a laughing Brimmage said. She finished with seven blocks.
The block didn’t always stop the Kansas hitters. Sometimes the Jayhawks would smash the ball through the hands of the attempted Missouri block.
When Missouri did block, though, you knew it. The crowd would erupt with cheers and applause. And the players were just as excited.
“It’s really hard to do,” Kreklow said. “And that’s why everyone gets so excited.”
Kreklow explained the complexities of blocking, including recognizing the placement of the hitter’s body and the importance of reaching your hands over the net.
Missouri struggled with blocking in a loss at Kansas almost a month ago, but the Tigers were ready to perform at the net in Columbia.
“Last time when we were at KU, that was one of our weaker aspects,” Wilson said. “So we worked really hard, and it’s improved a lot.”
With a satisfied grin, she said, “We really wanted revenge, and we did a great job of getting it.”