COLUMBIA — Surely this wasn't going to work.
Freshmen Alesha Wilson and Whitney Little both played volleyball — Little on varsity, Wilson on the freshman A team — and went to the same high school in Keller, Texas, but they did not seem destined to be friends.
"The first time I saw her, we were at banquet, and she wore tennis shoes with her dress," said Little, now a junior middle blocker at Missouri. "I hated it. I was so mad about it."
But six years later, despite their fashion differences, the two are best friends who celebrate an annual "friendiversary." When undefeated Missouri (8-0) plays undefeated N.C. State (6-0) at the Rice Invitational Friday in Houston, they’ll face each other for the first time in their college careers.
"They’ll talk trash across the net," said Terri Kelso, then an assistant coach and now the head coach at Keller Central High School.
And then, she said, they’ll hug each other after the game.
"I can see this being a huge battle," said Ryan Rams, a Hannibal-LaGrange University graduate and mutual high school friend. "When they’re on the court, they’re definitely not friends."
But off the court, they sure are.
The summer after Wilson wore that unfortunate dress-and-tennis shoe outfit, she signed up for a three-day Colorado State Rams volleyball camp. Little had no intentions of going. But her mom had other ideas, and Wilson got a phone call from Little a few days before camp. They sat next to each other on the flight to Colorado, shared a room at camp, and, Little said, haven’t gone a day without talking since.
There was that time when Wilson switched volleyball clubs, from Little’s Texas Advantage Volleyball Club (TAV) to rival Dallas Premier. Wilson recalls a trip to Sonic when she asked what Little would do if she ever left TAV for Dallas Premier.
Little said they wouldn’t be friends anymore.
But once Wilson made the switch and the girls spent a couple weeks ignoring each other in the hallways at school, Wilson went over to Little’s house and rang the doorbell. Little’s dad opened the door. Little looked over the bannister and ran back to her room, but Wilson rang the doorbell again and the two talked until they were best friends again.
Rams is the third best friend "who completes our triangle," Wilson said. Rams is two years ahead of the girls, but attended all of their volleyball games in high school, eventually becoming friends with them and playing competitively himself his senior year and in college.
Wilson is the witty one, and Little, he said, "is definitely the energetic, goofy one" and "someone you can count on to put you in a better mood."
Put the three of them together, and you get a spontaneous volleyball-playing trio.
"It can be 2:30 in the morning and we'll go on a hike," Rams said. "Or watch a random movie. Or go outside and look at the stars."
Kelso, a 27-year coaching veteran, said Little and Wilson are two of the funnest players she’s ever coached.
"They weren't cocky, but they were very confident," she said. "Very humble about their abilities."
And now that they’re in college, she gets to watch their progression as players.
"The things that we preached at her (Little) in high school that we couldn't get her to do, she's doing in college," Kelso said.