Freshmen on Missouri volleyball team set for first road trip

Wednesday, August 31, 2011 | 8:49 p.m. CDT; updated 9:34 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Freshmen outside hitter Emily Wilson, left, and middle blocker Whitney Little block the ball during a practice on Tuesday at the Hearnes Center.

COLUMBIA — MU senior Priscilla Armendariz smiles when she talks about road trips with the Missouri volleyball team. She laughs when she talks about how the players count how many U-turns the team vans must make because they get lost on the way to the hotel. The Tigers can bond over the simplest of things.

Freshman outside hitter Jade Hayes has heard about these road trips from the upperclassmen, and she also laughs while describing the competition to see which of the team vans can reach the hotel first.

Middle Tennessee Blue Raider Bash

Thursday, Sept 1
Missouri vs. Middle Tennessee State, 7 p.m.

Friday, Sept 2
Missouri vs. Austin Peay, 5 p.m.

Saturday, Sept 3
Missouri vs. East Tennessee State, Noon
Missouri vs. Florida International, 7:30 p.m.

Sunday, Sept 4

Missouri vs. Auburn, 12:30 p.m.

Games will be played at the Alumni Memorial Gym in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

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Traveling isn't new for the team's seven freshmen. Most of them played on club teams in high school, and are used to being away from home during tournaments. What's new is playing a college match away from Hearnes Center for the first time.

The freshmen's will experience this for the first time in Murfressboro, Tenn., at the Middle Tennessee Blue Raider Rash. The five-day road trip started early Wednesday morning and will last until Sunday.

Hayes said the freshmen will rely on the team's upperclassmen to get used to being on the road.

"I think the fan environment will be harder to contend with," Hayes said. "But I think our team zones in and realizes when we're on the court that it's just us out there. Our surroundings don't matter, we just need to play."

Armendariz said the freshmen ask her questions about road trips but that these questions aren't always volleyball-related.

"They usually ask simple questions like, 'Who do we room with? How do we get there? Can we listen to our iPods?'" Armendariz said.

Although the freshmen turn to seniors like Armendariz for advice, the Missouri coaching staff also tries to prepare them for what to expect.

Missouri coach Wayne Kreklow said structure and routine are important on the road, especially with such a young team.

"We try to keep things structured and simple. We try to keep them focused on what we are here to do," Kreklow said.

Kreklow also said he isn't sure how his team will react to a hostile environment. Missouri's first match with Middle Tennessee State will be played in the Blue Raiders' home gym.

"You just don't know what's going to happen. We have a young team and that may be an issue," Kreklow said.

While road trips are a challenge for freshmen, Armendariz said they are also a chance for the team to grow closer.

"It gives us a chance to room with people who we don't know or talk to," Armendariz said.

Hayes said the freshmen are ready to have their own set of things to talk about after they go on the road for the first time.

"We have a really great group and fun group, so I'm sure we're going to have more stories to tell once we go out on the road and feel how it is," Hayes said.

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