Tigers feature new talent, veteran pros

Missouri seeks to defy a low ranking in the Big 12.
Junior Rosa Medrano attempts to block a spike by junior Catie Wilson during the Black and Gold game Friday evening at the Hearnes Center. The Black team took three of four games against the Gold team.

The Missouri volleyball squad is picked to finish eighth in the Big 12 by league coaches, something many would call insulting for a program that has made eight NCAA tournament appearances in nine seasons.

For the Tigers, it doesn't matter one bit.

Although they are not expected to finish in the top half of the Big 12 standings, coach Wayne Kreklow said he still expects to accomplish a number of goals.

"We always strive to win the conference, and hopefully by striving to do that, it helps to get our secondary goals," Kreklow said. "Making the tournament is the benchmark for us."

Junior Julianna Klein prefers to be the underdog, embracing the possibility of being able to show this squad is better than expected.

A lot of teams underestimate us and we don't have a lot of respect around the country," Klein said. "We're going to come out and take a lot of teams by surprise and just dominate."

If this team has lost any experience, it has not showed all. Losing just two seniors to graduation, the team returns the bulk of its line-up and welcomes five newcomers who have the ability to make an immediate impact.

Senior setter Lei Wang returns as one of the most successful setters in school history with 3,677 assists in three seasons.

In the Black and Gold game Friday, Wang recorded 23 assists out of the team total of 42.

Redshirt junior Amanda Hantouli led the team last season in total blocks (106) and hitting percentage (.253).

Klein is another experienced player who brings power to the attack, averaging a team-high 3.42 kills per set last year.

One of the brightest spots on the roster belongs to five newcomers, including two junior college transfers from Miami Dade College.

Junior Paola Ampudia is one of the most heralded recruits in the conference. A native of Cali, Colombia, Ampudia was named the 2007 Player of the Year by the National Junior College Athletics Association and pre-season Big 12 Newcomer of the Year.

Although she struggled in the Black and Gold game, Ampudia boasts experience from her two years in junior college.

Junior Rosa Medrano, who played with Ampudia at Miami Dade College, is also expected to contribute early. She played well in the Black and Gold game, recording an attack percentage of .500.

Freshman Lindsey Petrick will also look for playing time on a crowded roster.

"Lindsey Petrick is coming into positions where there's a lot of depth, but she is really doing well," Kreklow said.

Hantouli said she is looking forward to the extra energy and enthusiasm the younger players as well as experienced players will bring to the team.

"It's kind of an even balance we have of brand new people and then people that have been there, done that," Hantouli said.

The atmosphere fans create in the Hearnes Center is something the players appreciate.

"The home crowd is indescribable, and we can't give them enough credit for the energy they give us and the support that we have is amazing," Klein said.

Hantouli agrees with Klein, saying the home crowd is "is one of the biggest things you're never going to realize unless you're out on the floor."

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