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Youth bolsters roster on this season's Missouri volleyball team

Thursday, August 25, 2011 | 10:52 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — The Missouri volleyball team might be young, but expectations are high for this freshmen-laden group.

Emily Wilson leads six other freshmen. Most are set to start immediately. This year's freshman class makes the Tigers the youngest team in the Big 12 Conference; 11 of the team's 14 players are underclassmen. 
Wilson recorded 16 kills during the Black & Gold scrimmage last week.
“I feel like I’m a player who needs to make plays for us to win,” Wilson said.
She said one of the biggest differences between high school and college volleyball is the speed of the game. 
"It's more fast paced," Wilson said.
The transition from high school to college started in July with team building exercises and strength and conditioning. The entire team was randomly divided into two groups forcing the freshman to get to know their older teammates during activities such as a team scavenger hunt and handball contest.
Lisa Henning, a sophomore outside hitter, was a newcomer last season and remembers how she felt in the locker room before her first game. 

"They are so nervous," she said. "I remember being the same way. We let them know that being nervous is natural thing."

Henning said inviting the freshman in and making the freshmen feel like they are part of the team is important. After a long day working out, the entire team eats dinner at the Mizzou Athletic Training Complex. 

Missouri coach Wayne Kreklow said the upcoming Tiger Invitational is a chance for his new players to learn. The two-day tournament features five teams. Missouri will face Binghamton and Idaho State on Friday at Hearnes Center. 

"I think it's an opportunity for these guys to get in a competitive situation," Kreklow said. "For us, the focus is to get them to relax, stay focused and just play."

But Kreklow isn't sure what to expect from these early tournaments.

"I've never seen them in a competitive situation," he said. "Honestly, it's hard to know how these guys will perform. We hope to see a real focus on playing with composure."


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