Two freshmen bring California nostalgia to MU volleyball team

Tuesday, September 13, 2011 | 11:01 p.m. CDT; updated 12:22 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Paige Buchanan (left), Lisa Henning (No. 5), and Niki Collier (right) celebrate a successful block during practice at the Hearnes Center on Tuesday. Collier recently made the switch from beach volleyball to collegiate volleyball and used the summer months to adjust.

COLUMBIA — Freshmen Niki Collier and Sarah Meister sing the chorus to "California Gurls." Their voices echo off the ceiling of the Hearnes Center. They laugh and joke like two sisters. But, they are not related to one another. They are singing Katy Perry's song because they are called the "California Girls" by their teammates on the Missouri volleyball team.

Collier said the two of them have more than one nickname and are constantly the object of jokes from their teammates. She remembered one instance in which the entire team burst into full song when "California Gurls" was on the radio in the locker room. 

Collier said that the jokes are usually reserved to how fast they both talk or their choice of words. 

"They say 'That's so Cali,'" Collier said. 

But Missouri's players are not the only ones who have found a connection between Collier and Meister's home state and being a fast talker. Collier recalled a comment by Missouri assistant coach Deng Yang. 

"She (Yang) said 'Oh, you Californians, you talk so fast,'" said Collier, who is from Manhattan Beach, Calif.

Collier and Meister grew up 100 miles apart in southern California, but are united by the fact that they both played beach volleyball in high school. They saw each other at different beach volleyball tournaments but said they were not close friends in high school. 

"I knew of her (Collier), but I did not know her," said Meister, a native of San Diego. 

It was not until their official visit to Missouri that Collier and Meister became close. Collier remembers looking at Meister and thinking that she knew her. Collier eventually realized who Meister was and now laughs when she talks about how they hugged each other. That's when the nickname "California Girls" started. 

Collier and Meister played both hard court and beach volleyball in high school and said that these two types of volleyball demand a different set of skills. They both are defensive specialists, which means they patrol the back line during Missouri's practices. 

Meister said that hard court volleyball involves defense, passing and serving while beach volleyball involves setting and hitting. 

"In beach, there's always something to do. You have to anticipate every ball. Here it's about playing the right position and not going into other people's areas," Meister said. 

Collier said that beach volleyball is more about endurance and running. 

But, the transition from beach volleyball to hard court is not the only challenge Collier and Meister have faced. Off the court, they've had to adjust to life in Missouri, which has meant giving up some things.

Collier and Meister said they are happy with their decision to go to Missouri but miss California, namely the beach and the "perfect" weather. 

"Here the winters are cold and the summers are hot," Collier said.

Meister also said she is not used to the back roads of Missouri. 

"I've never seen cows on the side of the road. I've never seen horses or farms. So, it was a bit of a culture shock for me," Meister said. 

Both have the benefit of going through this culture shock together, however. 

"We relate to one another in a way that other people don't understand," Meister said.

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