COLUMBIA — It emerged sometime midseason and has been a pregame staple following the Missouri volleyball team's warmups ever since.
Before the whistle blows to signal the first serve, all the players huddle together in the middle of the court, creating a large circle with their arms wrapped around each other’s shoulders and backs. Once junior middle blocker Brittney Brimmage enters the middle of the circle, the players bend their knees and sway from side to side and begin yelling as loudly as they can. Brimmage turns around in the circle, screaming words of motivation to her teammates.
Missouri Tigers (22-10)
vs. 12th seed Duke Blue Devils (26-6)
WHEN: 4 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Rec Hall in University Park in State College, Pa.
“There’s so much yelling, I don’t even know exactly what she says,” freshman setter Molly Kreklow said, laughing.
Brimmage explained how she says something different every time, ranging from “Let’s do this! Let’s get it together!” to “Let’s go here! Let’s kick some butt!”
No matter what Brimmage says during the huddle, it always ends the same, with the team chanting loudly enough for the whole venue to hear, “It’s game time! Woo!”
Some team members are fuzzy on the actual origins of the huddle and how it migrated from the locker room to the court, but Brimmage remembers it clearly.
“We were at K-State, and our coaches were asking us how we felt at that moment. Some people were like, ‘I feel hungry, I feel tired.’ I was like, ‘I feel like it’s game time, woo!’” Brimmage said.
For the Tigers, the huddle both energizes them and allows them to get a little goofy.
“We all love it,” senior libero Caitlyn Vann said. “It gets us jacked up, and it’s kind of funny.”
When Missouri head coach Wayne Kreklow first saw the huddle, it immediately reminded him of the chants of men’s basketball teams.
“At one point, I was telling my wife (director of volleyball Susan Kreklow) that maybe I should give them a few pointers on how to execute that a little bit better. I’m used to seeing the guys do it. Some of our kids have a good idea, and some of them are just not quite …” Wayne Kreklow said, trailing off with laughter and shaking his head.
“It’s kind of a neat thing, and I’m kind of glad they did it,” Wayne Kreklow said. “It’s a little bit different. You don’t see anybody else doing it.”
The unseeded Tigers (22-10) will get another chance to perform their pregame huddle at 4 p.m. on Friday when they take on 12th seed Duke (26-6) at Rec Hall in University Park in State College, Pa., in a regional semifinal of the NCAA tournament.
For the Tigers, this week’s practice was unlike practices at the end of the regular season. The team is not a group of exhausted players suffering from various injuries. The team says it is feeling refreshed and ready to play.
“The psychological band-aid of postseason play is something that really helps a lot,” Wayne Kreklow said.
The realization that this could be their last week of practice is also something that has been pushing the Tigers to keep performing at a high level.
“We’re all so driven and motivated right now that even if we practice for four hours, we’re all OK with it because we’re really playing for something right now,” Vann said.
“We’re just not satisfied. I want to go to the Final Four. The whole team does, I think,” Vann said. “We’re just really motivated to go over each hurdle one at a time and hopefully end up somewhere special.”