Freshman Leketor Member-Meneh has progressed into one of Mizzou volleyball’s strongest hitters

Member-Meneh has stepped up for the Tigers in crucial moments on the court.

Courtesy of Mizzou Athletics Courtesy of Mizzou Athletics

Putting on a Missouri volleyball uniform for the first time, freshman Leketor Member-Meneh assumed she would be standing on the sidelines and cheering on her teammates for the majority of the season.

That would not be the case. As the season progressed, the freshman who waited patiently on the bench worked her way into the lineup and became a crucial part of the team.

Contrary to what her quick rise within Missouri’s program might suggest, volleyball was not Member-Meneh’s main sport growing up.

Along with volleyball, Member-Meneh participated in track and basketball in high school, using her natural athletic ability to excel in both activities. During her freshman year at Lutheran South High School in St. Louis, she finished second in the state in the long jump, and in her senior year, she averaged 24.2 points in basketball, good for second best in the area.

But volleyball was the sport she always came back to.

“I hated running in both basketball and track,” Member-Meneh said. “Volleyball stood out to me because it was more of a challenge. I had to work at it, and you run less”

The youngest of eight children in a family full of athletes, Member-Meneh knew that she was going to be an athlete like her older siblings.

The eight children in the Member-Meneh household were always playing something, with volleyball, football, basketball and track being the mainstays. Her brother, Nadum Member-Meneh, would go on to run track at Mizzou.

“Playing sports was something I looked forward to because I got to watch my older siblings do it,” Member-Meneh said. “When I played sports I knew I had to be as good as them. My parents always said if you do something, be the best at it.”

For Member-Meneh, volleyball was the sport she struggled with most. She did not possess the necessary height to help her at the net and lacked control in her movements at the frontline and in the back row. She was even criticized for playing other sports and not dedicating enough time to volleyball. Yet, it was the struggle and criticisms that fueled her determination to be the best.

“I didn’t really follow college volleyball, and I had never been to a game,” Member-Meneh said. “My brother went to Mizzou and always talked about how good the team was and that I couldn’t compete with those girls. I wanted to prove him wrong.”

Her brother wasn’t the only one who doubted her. Throughout her recruitment process, Member-Meneh was told over and over that she did not possess the talent to compete at the Division I level.

“Everyone said I was too short or I didn't dedicate enough time to the sport,” Member-Meneh said. “When they said I wasn't going to make it, I told them to wait on it. Then I knew I had to make it.”

Along with Missouri, Member-Meneh was recruited by Duke, Kansas State, North Carolina State and St. Louis University. But for her, the decision to play for Mizzou was a no-brainer.

After her visit to Columbia, she was swayed by the coaching staff and the opportunity to stay close to home.

“I just couldn't leave Missouri, and Mizzou is awesome,” Member-Meneh said. “I really liked the coaches. They are genuine and care a lot about their athletes.”

Arriving as one of three freshmen on a team with seven upperclassmen, Member-Meneh’s chances of touching the court her first year were slim.

Despite her relatively small stature, Member-Meneh has played as an outside hitter for the Tigers, going up against athletes who are regularly 6 feet or taller. Though she lacked height and the experience of playing at the collegiate level entering the season, Member-Meneh earned increased playing time and became a weapon for team during tough matches.

In her first taste of college volleyball against Marshall on Aug. 25, Member-Meneh had 22 kills and 11 digs, earning her first double-double right out of the gate. In the second match against Middle Tennessee, she tallied nine kills, a team high for the match.

While she faced a number of disadvantages, Member-Meneh was never discouraged from achieving her goals.

“I knew I wasn't disciplined enough and would not play at the beginning of the season,” Member-Meneh said. “The goal was to be playing by the middle of the season. I wanted to be needed by the team.”

As the season has progressed, Member-Meneh has played an essential role for the Tigers. Primarily coming off the bench, she has been thrown into the lineup and expected to perform on the frontline for the Tigers in many different situations, which was an unexpected challenge for the freshman.

“It was difficult and really messed with my head because I understood why I was on the court but didn’t at the same time,” Member-Meneh said. “It put pressure on me, and I just wanted to do the little things right to help the team.”

Despite her nerves, Member-Meneh has excelled in her new role, even earning a starting spot in the big matches against tough conference opponents such as then-No. 4 Florida, LSU and Texas A&M. Over the season, she has earned 195 kills and eight solo blocks.

Head coach Wayne Kreklow has been impressed with Member-Meneh’s progress and sees her as a player that will be crucial to Missouri’s lineup for the next few seasons. Developing her discipline on the court and controlling her swing could tear up opponents defensively, he said.

“Leketor is a physical player who is very talented and has a cannon for an arm,” Kreklow said. “She just adds complexity and dimension to the game. I am pleased with the progress she is making as a player, and I know she will be even better in the next few seasons.”

Edited by Eli Lederman | elederman@themaneater.com

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