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Columbia Missourian

Six freshmen lay the foundation for Missouri volleyball

By Connor Casey, Megan Schuster, Shannon Greenwood
October 17, 2013 | 8:41 p.m. CDT
Missouri volleyball's Julia Towler hits the ball over the net while teammates Sarah Meister keft and Carly Kan, center, watch during the Austin Peay game at the Hearnes Center on Tuesday.

COLUMBIA — The undefeated No. 18 Missouri volleyball team is in the midst of one of its most successful seasons with the program's longest winning streak at 21 straight games. One of the key factors leading to Missouri's success are the six freshmen on its roster.

Coach Wayne Kreklow praised his freshmen after the straight-set victory over Austin Peay State University on Oct. 8.

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"I think, maybe, this group that we have now probably has integrated themselves better than any freshman group we've had," Kreklow said. "They do all the little things that make that easy."

Two of those freshman have made an immediate impact in the starting rotation. Outside hitter Carly Kan has the second highest kill-per-set ratio on the team (2.97 per set) and was named the All-Tournament Team at the Tiger Invitational, Rice Invitational and Mizzou Classic tournaments. Middle blocker Emily Thater has the third highest hitting percentage (.482) and blocks per set (.98) on the team.

The remaining four freshmen have also featured in several games this season. Setter Loxley Keala averages 1.95 digs per set with 16 aces and 22 assists on the season. Middle blocker Julia Towler had her most successful outing when the Tigers tied the winning streak record against Austin Peay, recording eight kills on .545 hitting and six blocks. Of the six, defensive specialists Linda Steinhardt and Courtney Meek have seen the least amount of time, both having played a combined 13 sets.

Along with their willingness to work hard in practice, Coach Kreklow said the most important contribution of the six players was their attitude, or lack thereof.

"They didn't come in with a sense of entitlement," Kreklow said. "We have some good players that were ranked high in their class, but they don't come in with that attitude of 'Hey I'm a big star and somebody owes me something.'"

Senior setter Molly Kreklow said that the freshmen's integration into the team has been easy.

"It's really been seamless," Molly Kreklow said. "They've adjusted really well. I think overall we try to do our best to make them feel welcome and make this feel like a family."