*CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story indicated that both Matt Porter and Derek Koetter traveled with the team.
COLUMBIA — Part of the secret to Missouri volleyball's undefeated start is how the Tigers prepares to play specific teams.
Friday, Nov. 8 — Missouri at Auburn
Sunday, Nov. 10 — Missouri at Alabama
Friday, Nov. 15 — Missouri at Florida
Sunday, Nov. 17 — Missouri at South Carolina
Some of team's success can be created to two MU students: senior volunteer assistant coach Matt Porter and sophomore practice player Derek Koetter. Earlier this season, Koetter talked about what it's like to play with the women during practice, which he described as fun because the rallies last longer and there's more ball control than in men's volleyball.
Playing against the Missouri team, Koetter and Porter get to imitate players from other teams during practice.
It starts with film study. Koetter and Porter watch opponents and figure out how to mimic their play for practice. Then they go out on the court and drill with the team.
For example, Porter said Florida middle blocker Chloe Mann will "bounce balls," or hit volleyballs right over the net in front of the 10-foot line.
"So that means I actually get to do that in practice," Porter said.
So when the Tigers prepare to play teams with top players, the guys can intensify their own play.
"We can really challenge and swing as hard as we can," Koetter said.
Even though Koetter and Porter are on the sideline during the matches, that preparatory role puts pressure on them.
Imagine Porter has been playing the part of Chloe Mann in practice, bouncing balls left and right. Then Mann comes in and has a record-setting game. Maybe, Porter said, he'd feel like he hadn't done his job.
But so far, the preparation has paid off, and the Tigers have built a 27-0 record.
The guys have other roles on the team, too, including keeping detailed data during matches, setting up equipment for practice, and scouting opposing teams. *Porter travels with the team and both have schedules similar to the team members.
Both Koetter and Porter played volleyball growing up, so part of the fun is improving their own games as they play the part of rival players.
"I think it's made me smarter," Koetter said. "It makes you court aware. ... If one player that you're supposed to be imitating always hits crossing, it's an opportunity for you to work on your cross shot as well."
And as they get better, so do the Tigers.
Supervising editor is Erik Hall.