A preseason scrimmage is for smoothing out wrinkles. So it’s a good thing the Missouri volleyball team brought plenty of wrinkles to Wednesday night’s Black and Gold scrimmage at Hearnes Center.
The gold Tigers beat the black Tigers in a shortened match at the annual scrimmage 2-1 (14-20, 20-15, 20-18), but not before the two sides played through many missed spikes, wildly tipped balls and serves into the net.
In the opening game, the gold squad, which included All-Big 12 Conference players Lindsey Hunter and Shen Danru, led 13-12 before an error-filled stretch gave the black team an 8-1 run and the first game.
“I think we started out a little rough,” junior Lindsey Noll said. “We have some kinks to work out; we have some new players on the court.”
Coach Susan Kreklow said shaky play is no surprise at the first public match of the season.
“There were times I thought we were nervous, but that’s what we expected on the first time out,” Kreklow said.
The Tigers’ outside hitters struggled with inconsistency in the first game, and it was Noll, a middle blocker, who finally started landing spikes early in the second game. After that, the errors started to disappear, the rallies got longer and the level of play jumped.
“You just have to warm up,” freshman Tatum Ailes said. “It takes time to get the tempo of the game.”
Hunter, a junior setter, said she tried to get the middle blockers more chances for kills early in the game and then moved to the outside hitters.
“Once I started connecting with the middle (blockers), I started opening up the outside,” Hunter said. “Then the outsides started getting kills and started getting more confidence and playing better.”
One of the outside hitters who started connecting was freshman Na Yang, the second player MU has recruited from China in the last three years and one of five Tigers freshmen.
“It’s my best game since I’ve been here,” Na said. “I’m so tired.”
Na, fellow freshmen Ashley Ebert and Ailes all earned high marks from the upperclassmen.
“As a freshman, you can be pretty nervous out there for the first time,” Noll said. “I thought they all played really composed.”
By the time the third and deciding game rolled around, both sides of the net were making fewer errors. With the score tied at 15, sophomore outside hitter Jessica Vander Kooi ended an impressive, back-and-forth rally with a spike that hit the line.
Subsequent kills by Hunter, Noll and Shen won the game and the match for the gold team, but for Hunter, the results were secondary.
“This is the first chance we’ve had to play in front of a crowd,” Hunter said. “It started off kind of shaky but we worked out those kinks.”