Deeken making her presence known

The freshman recorded 29 kills in her first five collegiate matches.

For weeks, freshman Sydney Deeken sat on the sidelines. No practicing, no games, just a hard regimen of recovery.

On Sept. 20, she got her chance.

And she took it.

The freshman outside hitter recorded six kills in her opening match, then followed up with ten kills and nine digs in her first-ever start against Mississippi State.

“I wasn’t expecting (to play that well) at all,” Deeken said. “I just played my game.”

Following an abdominal injury in the summer, Deeken was sidelined until mid-September, unable to participate in regular practices or get any time on the court in matches.

“It was frustrating,” she said. “(Volleyball) is what I love to do, so watching the girls out there having a good time kind of sucked with me on the sidelines.”

Once she got on the court, however, she quickly made her presence known.

Confident from early on, she dominated against SEC rivals Mississippi State and Tennessee, earning an SEC Freshman of the Week nod in the process.

Her game, which Missouri coach Wayne Kreklow said has vastly improved since high school, is highlighted by natural athleticism. Kreklow was quick to compliment Deeken’s innate spatial awareness and ability to make plays based on instinct rather than volleyball smarts.

While many freshmen volleyball players in the Southeastern Conference come from prominent club teams around the nation, using their experience to propel them to statistical leaderboards, Deeken uses her athleticism to make up for a small lack of experience on the volleyball court.

“She’s got a good feel and that’s something that just comes natural to her,” Kreklow said. “She’s been a multisport athlete so it’s not like she’s a highly trained volleyball player in terms of recognizing situations, but she does a lot of things naturally that it’s hard to teach people.”

The freshman from California, Missouri, played basketball in high school, and was a standout track star as well, winning state championships in long jump, triple jump, and high jump. She even considered competing in track at Missouri.

Not only does Deeken bring athletic talent, she also provides stability on the backline with sophomore standout Carly Kan. At 6-feet-1, Deeken fills the role of a steady and tall defensive specialist with greater range when needed. Kreklow described her as almost a bailout if the Tigers need a larger backrow presence.

“She came in like nothing had ever happened and she had never taken that break,” senior Whitney Little said. “That says a lot about what kind of player she is.”

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