MU defensive specialist shares love of volleyball with mother

Monday, November 8, 2010 | 9:03 p.m. CST
Missouri volleyball player Paige Buchanan started playing volleyball when she was in fourth grade for the church team in St. Lous that her mother coached.

COLUMBIA — Paige Buchanan grew up thinking she was going to play volleyball at Kansas State just like her mother, a former record-setting middle blocker for the Wildcats.

“I have been talking about playing there since I was little,” Buchanan said, “because I knew my mom went there.” 

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But even though Buchanan has become a freshman defensive specialist for Missouri, it is clear her mother Helen Buchanan has been a big influence. Paige Buchanan said her mother is the reason she developed her love of volleyball.

“Honestly, I think she had a volleyball in her crib,” Helen Buchanan said by phone from St. Louis. 

As soon as Paige Buchanan was able, she and her mother would practice passing, setting and hitting the ball back and forth to each other.

Before she reached kindergarten, Paige Buchanan remembers rolling volleyballs around the gym floor while her mother coached volleyball at Desert Christian High School in Bermuda Dunes, Calif.

After her family moved from Palm Desert, Calif., to St. Louis when she was in fourth grade, Paige Buchanan started playing volleyball for her church team, which her mother coached. Helen Buchanan also coached her daughter’s first club team, the Parkway Lightening.

“My dad plays golf, and I tried that, but it didn’t really catch on,” Paige Buchanan said. “I just kinda stuck with volleyball because my mom was my coach.”

Before she started her career as a volleyball coach, Helen Buchanan was recruited by Kansas State as a setter. But when their middle blocker was injured, she stepped in to fill the void.

Helen Buchanan still holds a number of records at K-State from her time there as a middle blocker. She ranks second overall with most solo blocks in a career, notching 104 from 1983 to 1986. She also is tied for first with most 10-block matches in a career, chalking up six during her years as a Wildcat.

Although Paige Buchanan, is a defensive specialist, she said her favorite aspect of volleyball is blocking. During her senior year of high school, she was on the court for the full rotation and played as an outside hitter while in the front row.

“I love to block,” said Paige Buchanan, who is 5 feet, 6 1/2 inches tall. “I know I’m not tall enough, but it’s always been my favorite position.” 

Shoulder to shoulder, mother and daughter both shared their passion for blocking when they played on Helen Buchanan’s parks and recreation team together. After completing a block, they would celebrate with laughter and then tease each other about who actually touched the ball.

As Paige Buchanan’s career progressed, Helen Buchanan doubted her daughter would become a middle blocker because of her height.

“I actually thought she would be a setter because she understood the game so well,” Helen Buchanan said. “She completely understood the flow of the game.”

In the years leading up to high school, Paige Buchanan was a setter. She then became a defensive specialist starting her freshman year of high school at Parkway South, where she earned varsity letters each of the four seasons she played.

When the time came for her to decide where to attend college, her top choices were Kansas State, Missouri and St. Olaf, an NCAA Division III college in Minnesota.

She knew the competition for a spot at Kansas State would be tough because a lot of new freshmen would be joining the team, including her cousin, Courtney Traxson.

Although she had always wanted to play with her cousin at K-State, she ultimately chose to play for Missouri because Columbia was close to home, and her brother, T.J. Buchanan, is also a student at MU. She said she felt familiar and comfortable with the Tigers' volleyball program because of the many camps she attended at the university.

“We’ve got a little family rivalry,” Paige Buchanan said.

She explained, laughing, how her mother wore her purple Mizzou shirt when Missouri played Kansas State at the end of October showing her support for both teams.

“I think I had an influence on her enjoyment of the sport,” Helen Buchanan said. “I’m glad she enjoys the sport that I enjoy so much.”

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