COLUMBIA — She eyes the ball, coils her knees and springs up. In one motion, her hand hits the center of the ball with violence. Her opponents can't react. The ball hits the court with a thud.
Brittney Brimmage, a senior middle blocker for the Missouri volleyball team, has an infectious smile and warms up for games by reading a romance novel. She stands at 6-feet-3 inches tall, which is average for her position.
Friday, Sept. 9
Missouri vs. Drake University, noon
Missouri vs. Texas San Antonio, 6 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 10
Missouri vs. UC Davis, 4 p.m.
Missouri vs. Denver, 8:30 p.m.
Matches will be played at Hamilton Gymnasium in Denver.
But when the volleyball approaches the net, things change. She shows you don't need to speak loudly or read action novels or tower over opponents to be intimidating.
"There's a lot of people with her size but not a lot of people with her size and combination of jumping ability and quick movement. She does things that are hard to defend against sometimes. And, that tends to get in other people's heads," Missouri head coach Wayne Kreklow said.
Kreklow said Brimmage shows her skills most when she is around the net, blocking opponents or leaping for a kill. She displays a combination of aggression and athleticism when she reaches for a ball and then spikes it.
Kreklow said that Brimmage's vertical leap is among the leaders in the nation. Brimmage can touch the rim on a regulation basketball court.
"When you're touching 10 or 11 feet, you're getting to a place where even if someone is in the right spot, they still can't stop it," Kreklow said.
During last weekend's Middle Tennessee Blue Raider Bash, Brimmage recorded 46 kills, including 18 kills in Missouri's win over East Tennessee.
Brimmage wasn't always an imposing figure on the volleyball court. She was "raw" when she first came to Missouri. But that's to be expected from someone who didn't start playing volleyball until high school.
Brimmage joked that she played volleyball because her mother made her play everything her older sister, Ambrea, did.
"She went out for basketball, so I had to go for basketball. She went to track, so I had to go out for track. We were like the Brimmage duo," Brimmage said.
With only four years of experience, Brimmage came to Missouri and had to adjust to playing volleyball all-year.
Kreklow said Brimmage could not even handle the ball. He smiles for a second, almost at the point of smirking, and says that the coaching staff jokes with Brimmage now about how she couldn't even warm-up with the team. The coaching staff had someone else work with her on the side.
"She couldn't pass or set. Even when she hit, it was hard for her to control the ball well enough to do something simple and basic like that," Kreklow said.
Brimmage doesn't deny it.
"I didn't have the same abilities as everyone else," she said.
Four years later, Brimmage isn't an athlete who happens to play volleyball. Instead, she uses her athleticism to control the middle of the volleyball court.
Still, Brimmage admits that she is behind other players in a few areas, such as setting, and will continue to work hard.
"I still believe that I have a lot of improvement left," Brimmage said.