Incoming Tiger Looks to Make an Instant Impact
COLUMBIA - Her real first name is Natalie, but she goes by Jade. You might know it as a green stone, but Jade Hayes wants you to know the name for something else...like a do-it-all player for the Missouri volleyball team.
"She can set...she's a very good setter. She can hit. She can pass. She can play defense. She can just do it all," said Wayne Kreklow, Head Coach of the Missouri volleyball team.
So it's no surprise that Hayes is a two-time Missouri Gatorade High School Player of the Year.
Her path to Mizzou started years ago.
"I grew up loving Mizzou and coming to camps with my mom," said Hayes, who will be a freshman this year.
"It's really gratifying to see somebody like that that started so long ago and so young finally get to a point where she is going to become a great collegiate player," said Wayne Kreklow, Head Coach of the Missouri volleyball team.
The only question is where on the court. The answer is most likely everywhere...
"Hence her title as utility player. She was a setter, i think she said she played every position, and she legit does it all," said fellow freshman teammate Niki Collier.
"It makes you 10 times better being able to do every position and trying to master each one," Hayes said. "It's kind of like a challenge to me."
But the utility title didn't sound perfect to Hayes because in baseball it means something different.
"Jade's a little concerned about utility player. In her mind that meant backup. I had to explain to Jade, 'No, i'm not talking about a backup,"' Kreklow said.
"I love it because I don't have a favorite position. Everybody's like don't you miss hitting if i'm passing or don't you miss passing if i'm hitting and i'm just like I love it all," said Hayes.
But at 6-foot tall, she's ideal to play libero.
"I think she's got a very bright future as a defensive specialist/libero type player and I think she's got the skills and the tools to become an outstanding player at that position," Kreklow said.
"Jade goes hard. She does not let balls hit the ground," added Collier.
And she likes to hit the ground running. Hayes left high school early to enroll at Mizzou last spring.
"I wanted to learn how college classes are going to be and just start workouts. Waking up early and getting in the rythm of things," said Hayes.
Volleyball Magazine named the Missouri native a Fab 50, and her coach says there is more home grown talent headed to Missouri in the future.
"It's looks like we're in a position to probably get most of the best kids in the next couple years in the state of Missouri, so that's a big thing for us," said Kreklow.
"Missouri pride is a big thing and i've just wanted to be a Tiger," said Hayes.
Back in the days when Missouri assistant coach Susan Kreklow played club volleyball, Jade Hayes' mom was her teammate. Coach Wayne Kreklow says Hayes will also serve as the backup setter to Molly Kreklow.