Jenny Duitsman and Lindsey Hunter have taken different paths to their roles as leaders of the Missouri volleyball team.
Duitsman, a middle blocker, is an obvious choice as a team leader. She is the Tigers’ lone senior, but says she feels none of the pressure of being in a class by herself.
“I’m not nervous about it, not worried about it,” she said. “I’m excited to be the lone senior and I love being able to see the younger girls come in and improve and see all the skills that they have. It’s really exciting to be that leader on the team.”
Hunter, a junior setter,has developed into a leader with her play on the court. This season is her third as a starter for the Tigers. The team gets its first on-court test Friday at the Badger Challenge in Madison, Wis.,when the Tigers take on host Wisconsin.
Hunter, a preseason All-Big 12 Conference selection, said she looks to Duitsman for leadership, though, because of her seniority.
“We all look up to Jenny because she’s been here for four years, and she’s been an amazing role model for all of us,” Hunter said.
Hunter has become a solid role model, too. As a setter, Hunter is on the court for nearly every play. That makes her a natural as the team’s on-court leader.
“Just with the nature of my position, I have to be kind of like a coach on the court,” she said.
Sophomore Jessica Vander Kooi, an outside hitter, has seen the on-court leadership component of Hunter’s game first-hand.
“She’s involved in every play,” Vander Kooi said. “She talks to you and lets you know what you need to do.”
Duitsman agreesthat setter is a more natural leadership position, but she finds other ways to motivate the team.
“My role is a little different,” Duitsman said. “You would compare (Hunter) to the quarterback. With me, I come in and out; I do more as the supporter rather than the enforcer.”
In other words, Hunter takes the reins when the ball is in play, but Duitsman is more likely to lead the team in a practice huddle.
Between the lines, Hunter has been turning heads since she entered the Missouri program in 2002 out of Papillion, Neb. In her freshman season, she tallied 14.08 assists per game, the second-best mark in the nation, and was named All-Big 12 honorable mention. She also recorded more than 60 assists in eachof the Tigers’ NCAA Tournament matches. In 2003, Hunter reached All-Big 12 first-team status while recording 12.29 assists per game.
Hunter competed for two different national teams this summer, an experience that Missouri coach Susan Kreklow said will help her grow as a team leader.
“She’s had a tremendous summer,” Kreklow said. “She gained a lot of confidence with those experiences and we look for that to carry over for us this year.”
Hunter and Duitsman say they’re not the team’s only leaders.
“Most of the upperclassmen have all been leaders,” Duitsman said. “All of us have our own roles, whether it’s on the court or off.”
Kreklow also emphasized the experience of her team, which lost only defensive specialist Juliana Godoi to graduation last year.
“(We have) a good nucleus returning,” she said. “One senior, who’s a tremendous leader, but we had only one senior last year, so the bulk of our team is returning.”
New team members are learning from the co-leadership of Duitsman and Hunter.
“The response is really good,” Duitsman said. “The girls are awesome. I love this team right here. This year has been probably the best preseason we’ve had. The girls respond really well if we tell them, ‘Hey, this is how it’s done here,’ then they embrace it and they take it and say, ‘OK, I guess I’ll do that then.’”
For these Tigers, the goal is to make the NCAA Tournament, which Duitsman and Hunter have done every year of their careers. Now it is their turn to show others how to do it.