In order to prepare for the cutthroat competition of the Southeastern Conference, Missouri volleyball has brought together a unique combination of former players and student managers to form its practice squad.
Assistant coach Lindsey Hunter, who played setter for the Tigers from 2002 to 2005 and returned to the team in 2011, is by junior setter Molly Kreklow’s side at every practice. Brittney Brimmage, who played as an outside hitter from 2008 to 2011, rejoined Missouri this year to train the team to combat against powerful offensive opposition.
Meanwhile, junior Matt Porter and freshman Derek Koetter have brought their experience from the unsung world of men’s volleyball.
Coach Wayne Kreklow said he knows how much the practice squad aids his team in preparing for games.
“It’s really helpful,” he said. “You’re always trying to elevate the play of everybody in your gym. The tougher we make the opposition side, the better our starters will be. Where they really help us is being able to recreate and mimic what we’re going to see from other teams.”
Porter played in high school for St. Charles United, a club team in St. Charles, Mo., and applied to be an assistant for the team as a freshman. This year, his position has been elevated to volunteer assistant coach.
“This year we wanted him to be more active in practices, so we designated him as a volunteer assistant,” Wayne Kreklow said. “Now he can step in and help us practice in drills (and) scrimmages and travel with the team.”
Koetter, who joined the team this year as a student manager, played for the Tampa Bay Raiders club team in Florida throughout high school. His family connections to the Kreklows helped convince him to come to MU. His father, Dirk Koetter, is the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons and was Missouri’s coordinator from 1989 to 1993.
“Last year, (Dirk) called us and said he had a son who was a volleyball player,” Wayne Kreklow said. “We brought the family up for a visit, and he loved it.”
While participating in six-on-six scrimmages, Porter and Koetter make it their focus to mimic the style of play the Tigers will see in their upcoming game.
“Our job is to just make the players better,” Koetter said. “We watch film to try to imitate what the other team is going to do.”
The two’s participation in practice better prepares the team, Porter said.
“We’re kind of resembling the all-stars of each individual team, and for them to be able to see them every day, I think it really gets them ready to play,” he said.
The duo’s participation in scrimmages also helps prevent the starters from injuring themselves due to fatigue in practices.
“When it comes to practice, playing on both sides of the net causes a lot of wear and tear,” Wayne Kreklow said. “So having them practice with us allows guys like Whitney (Little) and Emily (Wilson) to take breathers instead of having to play both sides.”
With volleyball being known as a predominantly women’s sport, both Porter and Koetter are aware their love for the game is somewhat unorthodox.
“It was originally a guy’s sport, but I think everyone just looks at it as something only for women,” Koetter said. “But it’s always been a big part of my life, and I want to keep playing after college.”
Wayne Kreklow, who coached men’s volleyball while he and his wife, Susan, coached at Columbia College, pointed out the difficulties men’s volleyball has in becoming more mainstream.
“There’s a lot of boys that play volleyball, and it’s very popular at the club level,” he said. “It’s just hard to get it started in high school because you’re competing for gym space, and then in college you run into Title IX issues. For most NCAA schools it’s hard to bring in another men’s sport because most of them are trying to get in compliance with what they already have.”