Oct. 11, 2013
COLUMBIA, Mo. - History was made on Friday night at Thompson-Boling Arena as the Mizzou volleyball team defeated Tennessee, 3-0 (27-25, 25-10, 25-16) for its 20th consecutive win to open the season, a new school record. The Tigers, now 20-0 and 4-0 in SEC play, are off to the best start in program history and have eclipsed the 20-win mark for the eighth time under Wayne and Susan Kreklow. The 1982 team had held the record for wins to open a season with 19. Also, with North Carolina's loss to Duke on Friday night, the Tigers are one of just two remaining unbeaten teams nationally.
"Any time you can go on the road and get a win it's a big deal," head coach Wayne Kreklow said. "We weren't very sharp in the first set but I was happy with how we came back and really played our game in the second and we really had a lot of people contribute all night. Our offense was very balanced and we had a lot of people make big plays in the back row. It's great for us to break the record as well, but we have bigger goals that we want to accomplish. We'll enjoy this one tonight, but we have a good Alabama team coming into our place Sunday."
The Tigers were led by a balanced offensive attack on Friday as three players finished with double-digit kill totals while seven different Tigers finished with at least two kills. Senior All-American Lisa Henning (Blue Springs, Mo.) led the way with 15 kills on .270 hitting with a team-high six blocks. Freshman Carly Kan (Honolulu, Hawaii) added 10 kills on .345 hitting and junior Emily Wilson (Omaha, Neb.) also had 10. Freshman Julia Towler (Blue Springs, Mo.) came off the bench and gave Mizzou a huge boost with five kills and five blocks while Whitney Little (Keller, Texas) added eight kills and two blocks. Senior setter Molly Kreklow (Delano, Minn.) was sensational as well with 43 assists in the three sets while adding two kills and eight digs.
Mizzou was great in the back row all night as well, pulling in 61 digs in the three-sets, out-digging the nation's second-best digging team by five. The 61 digs are the second-most by the Tigers this season and the most in a three-set match. Junior libero Sarah Meister
(San Diego, Calif.) pulled in a season-best 20 digs. Kan was sensational as well with 10 digs, good for her first career double-double. Freshman Loxley Keala
(Honolulu, Hawaii) added eight digs as well and Henning pitched in seven.
Mizzou opened an 8-3 lead early in the first set after back-to-back aces by Thater, but Tennessee hung tough with the Tigers, trailing by just one after the media timeout at 15-14. But the Tigers ran off four consecutive points following the timeout as they opened a 19-14 lead. But just like earlier in the set, the Lady Vols used great defensive play to get back in the set and pulled within one at 21-20 after a kill from Whitney Heeres. The Lady Vols wound up taking a 24-23 lead, but the Tigers fended off a pair of set points as Kan and Little came up with huge kills to tie the set at 25-all. Henning then tooled a right-side block for a kill and an attack error from Ashley Mariani clinched the set for Mizzou, 27-25.
The Tigers had an uncharacteristic seven attack errors in the first set, but did tally 17 kills. Kan led the way with five on 11 errorless attacks and Henning also had five in the opening frame. Tennessee libero Ellen Mullins finished the first set with nine digs while Meister led Mizzou with seven.
After a sloppy first set, Mizzou played the volleyball that they had all season in the second set. Mizzou opened an 8-5 lead and then ran off 12 consecutive points to take a 20-5 lead. It was a dominating offensive performance for the Tigers, who hit .469 with 17 kills in the frame as they were in system the entire time with Kreklow assisting on 16 of the 17 kills. Also, the Tigers had four blocks in the second set after not getting one on the first. Six different Tigers had kills on the second set led by four from Henning, Kan and Wilson.
After the intermission, Mizzou got kills from Towler and Wilson to open the frame as the offense continued to fire on all cylinders until three straight hitting errors by the Tigers gave UT a 5-3 lead. The Tigers continued to struggle as they fell behind 9-6 after committing a bevy of errors, forcing Wayne Kreklow to use a timeout. The Tigers then battled back and Towler then announced her presence with back-to-back kills in the middle and then she teamed with Henning for a block to give Mizzou a 12-11 lead. That was all Mizzou needed as it ran away with the set, 25-16.
Mizzou will play Alabama Sunday in its Dig Pink match at 1:30 p.m. at the Hearnes Center. For all the latest on Mizzou volleyball, stay tuned to MUTigers.com and follow the team on twitter @MizzouVB.