Little’s records didn’t come easy

Senior Whitney Little holds eight Mizzou volleyball records, including blocking.

Whitney Little could not help but crack a smile.

After being asked about her new career blocking record (455) she set this past weekend in Idaho, the senior All-American middle blocker was almost giddy.

“It’s exciting,” Little said with a wide grin. “I try not to think about it and get wrapped around records, but it’s definitely exciting that it’s in there now and it’s mine.”

Things did not come easy for Little. Missouri coach Wayne Kreklow complimented her work ethic both on and off the court. Whether it was staying late at practice or working to improve her blocking, Kreklow said Little has always been a model worker.

Out of high school, Kreklow didn’t really know what to expect from the 6-foot-3-inch freshman from Keller, Texas. She was ranked 82nd on PrepVolleyball.com’s Senior Aces list in 2010 — good, but not among the nation’s elite.

“I knew she was going to be good, but you never really know quite how good,” Kreklow said. “A lot of that depends on the person and how hard they’re willing to work and what kind of commitment they make.”

Little made that commitment. Upon arriving in Columbia, she hit the ground running.

Senior middle blocker Brittney Brimmage took the freshman under her wing in 2011 and taught Little the ropes of Mizzou volleyball. Little was named to the All-Freshman Big 12 team that year after breaking a freshman record with 138 blocks that season.

“Just to be able to be a freshman and have Brittney Brimmage,” Little said, “I definitely looked up to her in a big way.”

After Brimmage’s graduation, a new role model took over: Lisa Henning. The All-American outside hitter always gave Little something to strive for. Trying to beat Henning in anything and everything in practice became the norm during Little’s sophomore and junior seasons.

Today, all that hard work has paid off. Little came into the program as an unproven freshman. Four hundred sixty-two blocks later, she is a household name.

“Right from her freshman year she has been one of our consistently better blockers,” Kreklow said. “She works hard, and she provides a big offensive punch for us. Over the years the things she’s been able to do have been really significant and I’m happy to see somebody like that who works really hard everyday to have that kind of success.”

Though Little holds eight records for Missouri volleyball, she has never really been in the spotlight. After playing in the shadows of Henning and setter Molly Kreklow, Little’s blocking is finally being recognized.

Now, it is almost expected that the senior perform at a high level consistently. Teammate and fellow senior Sarah Meister believes Little’s work is often overlooked because she is already so good.

“When she does amazing things again, they’re looked at as, ‘she should do amazing things because she’s that good’,” Meister said.

Little’s values all eight of her records — blocks in a season, single season hitting percentage, single season solo blocks, career 10-block matches, career hitting percentage, career blocks, career blocks per set, single match hitting percentage — but last weekend’s career blocking record stands out the most.

“I like to think that I’ve worked a lot over the years and being able to break that at the beginning of my senior year was awesome,” Little said. “The number will definitely go up, but it’s just exciting to know that I’ve done that.”

Little needs only 15 more solo blocks and 22 more block assists to break both of those school records as well.

Despite Little’s selfless hard work on and off the court, even the giddy, record-holding senior can get a little selfish. Behind an innocent laugh, the blocking champ muttered something under her breath.

“Hopefully nobody will break it for a very long time.”

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