Freshman Riley Sents fulfills volleyball values
Wayne Kreklow: “I think (Sents) is going to be a valuable piece in what we do.”
Oct. 14, 2015
Grit, gratitude, resiliency, investment and teamwork.
These are the standards the Missouri volleyball team lives by and the words freshman Riley Sents works to fulfill everyday. However, Sents began working toward these volleyball values far before her collegiate career began.
Given her father, Darwin Sents’ club team connection with coach Wayne Kreklow, Sents always envisioned Mizzou in her future.
“It was kind of a dream of mine when I was younger,” Riley Sents said. “I knew that coach Kreklow had a great program, and I'd love to play for him one day. It all just fell together in high school.”
However, Sents had a lot of work to do before that dream could become a reality, work that comes easily when you grow up in a volleyball family like hers. With an older sister and father who played and supported her skill development, Sents’ career began early and improved quickly.
Beginning at age 12, Sents played for the Six Pack Volleyball Club about 45 minutes away from her house in Grundy Center, Iowa. Her freshman year, she decided to join the Iowa Rockets club team despite the four-hour round trip, three times a week. Knowing it was a “really good fundamental club” that improved its player’s skills, she saw it as a good move for her development. In her first year on the team, they won the national championship.
Sents underwent another team transition her freshmen year as her father, the man who started her love of volleyball and coached from the bleachers, was now coaching her from the bench. The father-daughter dynamic proved successful. As the libero of Grundy High School all four years, Sents helped her team to seasonal successes and put up significant numbers of her own.
During her Grundy career, she led the entire state of Iowa in digs as a sophomore and junior, claimed numerous all-tournament titles, and she led the team’s defense to conference victories all four years. She left her mark after graduation with over 2,000 digs and a .972 serve receive percentage.
With a mounting high school success, her unofficial recruitment began early: sophomore year. Given the familiarity of Darwin and Kreklow, Mizzou was always on Sents’ list.
“I knew they had a great program,” Sents said. “The coaches are all amazing people, they all care about you as a person. You’re not just another player on their roster.”
After multiple visits, open gyms and tours with the team, Sents chose the “family atmosphere” of Mizzou. Her childhood fantasy came to life.
Coming in as a freshman defensive specialist, Sents is the youngest among a hefty pool of experienced back row players. Despite little playing time, she continues to come in everyday willing to do “everything and anything in practice,” senior Carly Kan said.
In addition to her willingness to work, Sents’ positive attitude is a vital part of her defensive game. Her way of play not only pushes her own development, but also her teammates’.
“She can be your biggest cheerleader and push you the hardest at the same time,” Khan said.
Sents is both the teammate who encourages everyone with a “good job, bud,” and the defensive player who makes your life “a living hell” during hitting practice, Kan said. From providing difficult daggers to the starters during serve-receive drills to chasing down shanks in order to further a rally, Kan said Sents is “relentless” during practice. And it has been noticed.
This year the coaches began the yellow or “grit” jersey as an honor to “recognize contributions other than the typical,” Kreklow said. Sents has already won it twice.
“I don’t know how many times last week when we were scrimmaging when she’s sprinting off the court, 15-20 feet to keep a ball in play that extends a rally that makes everybody better,” Kreklow said. “That kind of stuff is invaluable.”
While the coach-player duo originally discussed a possible redshirt for the year, Kreklow said he plans to rotate Sents in with the starters during future practices to “see what kind of impact (her hustle) has on the other side.”
Depending on her performance, Sents could possibly continue working on the starters side, gain a redshirt status or be in line for future playing time. As of right now “anything is possible,” Kreklow said.
Redshirt or not, Sents will continue her relentless play behind the scenes as she works to “improve as much as a player as (she) can as well as help the team improve in any possible way,” Sents said.
With a determination for improvement, Sents will continue to fulfill the slogan of the team as her role grows more and more significant with the season’s progression
“She’s athletic, she makes a lot of defensive plays,and she reads really good,” Kreklow said. “As her passing gets better and her serving becomes more consistent, I think she’s going to be a valuable piece in what we do.”