MOREHEAD, Ky. - The Mizzou volleyball team improved to 7-1 on the season as it earned its fourth straight sweep, defeating Valparaiso, 3-0 (25-17, 25-22, 25-18), on Friday afternoon at Weatherby Gym in the second match of the Morehead State Eagle Challenge. Junior All-American and reigning SEC Player of the Week Lisa Henning (Blue Springs, Mo.) led the way with 15 kills on .220 hitting while sophomore Whitney Little (Keller, Texas) finished with 12 total points, posting six kills on .600 hitting with three aces and four blocks. The Tigers will play their second match of the tournament against Morehead State tonight at 6 p.m. (CT).
"I was happy with how we came out and battled this morning," head coach Wayne Kreklow said. "In these tournaments, it is always important to win the first match and I was happy how the team responded after falling behind 6-0 in the second set. They did a great job of refocusing and did the little things that you have to do to win at this level. Now, we need to get ready for a very good Morehead State team that is coming off of an NCAA Tournament appearance last season."
Aside from Little and Henning, freshman Regan Peltier (Nixa, Mo.) finished the match with eight kills while Emily Wilson (Omaha, Neb.) pitched in six more. Junior setter Molly Kreklow (Delano, Minn.) was spectacular as usual, spreading 34 assists while pulling in 12 digs, good for her fourth double-double of the season. Sophomore Jade Hayes (Ozark, Mo.) led the Tigers with 12 digs as she has now corralled double-digit digs in all eight Tiger matches this season.
The first set was back and forth as Valpo hung on until midway through the first set when a triple block of Kreklow, Peltier and Little combined for a huge stuff block on a pipe shot from the Crusaders, giving them a 19-15 lead. That forced a Crusader timeout and Henning launched a tough serve that resulted in a lift by Valpo, extending the lead to 20-15 and that was all the Tigers needed to take the first, 25-17. Valpo was as close at 15-14, but the Tigers closed the set on a 10-3 run.
Henning and Little did most of the damage in the first as they combined for 10 kills. Henning had seven kills while Little posted three kills on just four swings. In all, the Tigers had 14 kills on just 36 swings in the first, but eight attack errors allowed Valop to hang around.
Mizzou was sloppy to open the second set, allowing Valparaiso to open up a 6-0 lead, prompting Wayne Kreklow to use a timeout. Whatever he said was short and sweet as the team used just 30 seconds of the timeout. That sparked a 10-3 run as Mizzou gained its first lead at 10-9. Little came up with two solo blocks in that span as her play really sparked the Tiger rally as they wound up closing out the set, 25-22.
Through two sets, Henning led the way with 14 kills on .265 hitting while Little posted five kills on nine swing with three blocks and an ace, to total nine points through two sets. Through two sets, Kreklow had 25 assists. Mizzou had 19 kills on .326 hitting in the second.
Mizzou was much sharper to open the third set and jumped all over the Crusaders and eventually ran away with the set, 25-18. Peltier ended the match with her eighth kill on a huge left-side swing. After having eight attack errors in the first set, Mizzou committed just seven in the next two sets as it posted its sixth sweep of the season and fourth straight.
The Tigers will be back in action tonight at 6 p.m. (CT) for a match against defending Ohio Valley Conference Champion Morehead State. Mizzou Network will have the call. For all the latest on Mizzou volleyball, stay tuned to MUTigers.com and follow the team on twitter @MU_Volleyball.