When the Missouri volleyball team takes on No. 14 Oklahoma at 6:30 tonight at Hearnes Center, chances are Kate Faust and Lindsay Smith won’t play a point.
Most likely, though, they’ll be the first to greet teammates leaving the court after substitutions, usually with high fives and pats on the back. They’ll be the ones cheering loudest when the Tigers score points, and if they don’t see the court at all, they will not work any less hard at practice on Thursday.
As the Tigers made final preparations for the Sooners on Tuesday afternoon, the two walk-on defensive specialists could be seen diving all over the court, going all out with very little reward: no scholarship money, no promise of a professional career, no moments in the spotlight playing in front of thousands of people on game nights.
For Faust and Smith, the lack of playing time is just a reason to try harder.
“It’s just more of a motivation,” Smith said.
Missouri coach Wayne Kreklow found the two players on Missouri’s club team and brought them in to add extra depth after Melissa Allbery and Jilly Jaksich quit the team earlier in the season. The two originally were practice squad players, but they have now both been added to the Tigers’ official roster. That gives them a chance to dress for matches as well as be on the sidelines and eligible to play. Kreklow says whether the two will get to play at all this season remains to be seen, but he is happy with what the two have provided the team.
“We’re really low in numbers, particularly in the back row, so having them here helps,” he said. “They work hard, and practice is where you get better as a team, so they help us out there.”
Smith was just added to the official roster prior to the Texas match Saturday and will be on the sidelines in uniform for the first time tonight, something she says she is excited for.
“It’ll be fun,” she said. “I have my mom and dad coming in. I really look forward to it.”
Faust was already able to live out a dream when she dressed for the Tigers’ last home match against Colorado on Nov. 4. She got to hear her name announced in front of thousands of people and stand on the sidelines as a Division 1 volleyball player.
“Division I’s pretty much as high as it gets, so throughout your entire high school career, pretty much your entire volleyball career, it’s the ultimate goal,” she said. “It’s very exciting, to have the whole school here, and the band, and all the emotions of a volleyball game.”
Missouri (15-10, 9-7) was swept at Oklahoma (22-5, 13-3) earlier in the season. In what Kreklow said was one of the worst performances of the season, the Tigers were routed by the Sooners 30-18, 30-18, 30-26. With his team trying to finish strong to lock up an NCAA Tournament bid and have some momentum going into the postseason, Kreklow said it is important for his team to do basic things a lot better than they did in Norman.
“I’ve looked at tape a number of times and just groaned from beginning to end,” he said. “We didn’t do anything very well. If they play well and we play well, flip a coin.”
The Tigers walk-ons will be there to help Kreklow cheer on and motivate their teammates, waiting to see if one day they’ll get their chance to play.
“You can always hope, right?” Faust said.