June 26, 2013
COLUMBIA, Mo. - The Mizzou volleyball program is loaded with five upperclassmen, a two-time All-American and three All-SEC players as it prepares for its second season in what figures to be a loaded Southeastern Conference. With All-SEC setter Molly Kreklow running the show, two-time AVCA Third Team All-American Lisa Henning on the outside and All-SEC hitter Whitney Little in the middle, the Tigers have a strong nucleus returning. That trio should be complemented nicely by a freshman class that ranked No. 18 nationally according to PrepVolleyball.com as the Tigers should make another run towards a top finish in the SEC. The following is a position-by-position breakdown of what the Tigers can expect in 2013. Today, MUTigers.com will focus on the middle hitters in the second a four-part series.
The Middle Hitters
Mizzou's long tradition of dominant middle blockers has continued over the past several seasons and looks to continue in the form of junior Whitney Little. In each of her last two seasons, she has set the Mizzou single-season blocks mark, doing so with 138 as a freshman and then 139 last year as a sophomore en-route to earning second team All-SEC honors. Her 139.0 total blocks and 1.30 blocks per set were both SEC-bests in 2012. Not only that, but Little had her best offensive season last year with 251 kills on .367 hitting, the second-best clip in the SEC. She also tallied a school-record five 10-block matches in a pair of block-kill double-doubles last season along with a school-record five solo blocks in just three sets at Florida. In fact, she ranked 10th nationally in solo blocks and owned the SEC's top five individual blocking performances last season. With another year under her belt, Little should figure to be one of the top retuning middles in the SEC this season and will look to once again threaten her own single season blocks record.
But as good as Little was in the M1 position last year, Mizzou struggled to find a consistent performer in the M2 spot, trying the likes of Emily Wilson
there for the bulk of the season before then-freshman Lydia Ely began to develop into a legit option late in the season. Ely, at 6-6, is one of the tallest Tigers to play for Wayne and Susan Kreklow and with a year under her belt, should factor in again in 2013. Mizzou also has two very viable candidates in its freshman class in Emily Thater
and Julia Towler
. Thater came in as the No. 36 overall recruit by PrepVolleyball.com and is a tall, physical athlete that moves very well along the net. She was dubbed a top-50 freshman by Volleyball Magazine. At 6-3 with very long arms, Thater should provide Mizzou with an instant impact at the M2 spot and solidify the front line. Towler, also a big, physical player, will vie for that M2 spot as well. At 6-2, the Blue Springs native ranked No. 84 nationally according to PrepVolleyball.com and brings a strong arm to that position. The three middle hitters give Mizzou its most depth at the position since its Sweet 16 run in 2010. .