There might be nothing more important to the start of a season than when a team gets in front of a large crowd for the first time. This was no exception for the Missouri volleyball team as it competed in the Black and Gold game Friday at the Hearnes Center.
The Black squad won the match in four sets (15-8, 15-6, 7-15, 15-13), though the teams were switched around in the third and fourth sets.
Senior Lei Wang showed why she is one of the best setters in the team's history with 23 assists, 13 for the Black squad and 10 for the Gold squad.
Junior Julianna Klein recorded six kills, four aces and five digs.
Klein recognized the nerves that come along with playing in front of a large crowd.
"It was our first time in front of a big group of people, but I think toward the end we started to play really well," Klein said. "Our nerves got out and we started to play relaxed more."
One of the team's newcomers, freshman Lindsey Petrick, notched one solo block and six assists.
Junior Caitlyn Vann, of the Gold squad, and sophomore Annie Lopez, of the Black team, picked up where they left off last season in terms of digs. Vann recorded 14 digs, and Lopez notched 13. They are a pair of strong defensive players, with Vann totaling 560 digs last season and Lopez piling up 242.
Assistant coach Chris Muscat was also able to get in on the action, filling gaps and providing an extra level of competition because of his size.
Coach Wayne Kreklow noted the importance of being able to use coaches and volunteers of Muscat's size to simulate Big 12 play.
"They play more like the bigger and more physical teams in the conference when you have to play them," Kreklow said.
A total of 1,191 people came out to the Hearnes Center for the contest, one year after the Tigers ranked 16th in the nation in attendance.
The intra-squad scrimmage is important in transitioning from closed practices to playing in front of a large crowd, especially for the new players unaccustomed to the noise and support that comes with playing actual matches.
"The adrenaline flows a little bit, everyone's antsy and some people were nervous out here tonight," Kreklow said. "It's better to be able to do this now than next week when we start playing."
Senior Amanda Hantouli also noticed the importance of the home crowd.
"It makes a huge difference knowing that you have so many fans shouting for you and supporting you," Hantouli said. "It makes this environment so much more relaxed knowing that you could screw up really bad and they'll still support you."
Attendance has been high for the past few years, averaging between 2,000 and 2,500 for conference matches.
"There's a lot of places in the country that just get this kind of attendance for a regular match during the season," Kreklow said.