Aug. 8, 2011
COLUMBIA, Mo. - The Mizzou volleyball program, fresh off of an NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 appearance and a 22-win season, reports for preseason training camp today (Aug. 8). There will be plenty of fresh faces as the Tigers' young and talented team will look to qualify for its 10th NCAA Tournament appearance in the last 12 seasons. In fact, under the direction of Wayne and Susan Kreklow, Mizzou is coming off of its most successful decade in program history and will look to carry that success into the 2011 season.
As mentioned above, the Tigers will don a new-look team this season as they are faced with the task of replacing five seniors from last year's team, including All-American Paola Ampudia. Mizzou brought in seven freshmen to this year's team, who give the Tigers another top-25 recruiting class. Combine this year's freshman class with the four sophomores on the 2011 roster and Mizzou is, according to the percentages, the youngest team in the Big 12 this season as nearly 80-percent of the roster will be comprised of underclassmen. But don't look for that to be a detriment for the team as five of those 11 players were dubbed Fab 50 recruits by Volleyball Magazine coming out of high school.
Although Mizzou lost plenty of production to graduation following last season's Sweet 16 run, there is plenty of reason for optimism surrounding the 2011 team and it starts up front with middle blocker Brittney Brimmage (East St. Louis, Ill.). Last year, Brimmage hit .331 with 291 kills, 119 blocks and 360.0 total points, all of which are bests among Tiger returners this season. Her story is well chronicled as she came to Mizzou as a great athlete but with limited volleyball experience. She has begun to put everything together and looks primed for a breakout season in 2011 as she was named to the COBRA Magazine Preseason All-National Third Team.
Another reason for optimism for the Tigers is the return of a dynamite sophomore class that includes setter Molly Kreklow
(Delano, Minn.) and outside hitter Lisa Henning
(Blue Springs, Mo.). Kreklow is the reigning AVCA Central Region Freshman of the Year and both Kreklow and Henning were named to the All-Big 12 Freshman Team in 2010. Kreklow anchored a Tiger offense that ranked among the Big 12 and national elite in 2010. She already ranks among the program's leaders in career assists (1,392) and assists per set (11.70) despite just one year in the program, ranking seventh and third, respectively.
Henning will be one of Kreklow's top targets this year as she really developed throughout her freshman year in 2010. She had a phenomenal NCAA Tournament, highlighted by a career match in the second round against Northwestern in which she had a team-high 18 kills on .556 hitting. In all, she finished 2010 with 266 kills and with a year of development under her belt, she should be one of the team's top attackers in 2011.
Defensively, Mizzou is saddled with the chore of replacing one of its all-time best liberos in Caitlyn Vann, who set the program's single season digs (637) and digs per set (5.35) records in 2010. It appears that there will be a very good battle for the libero position heading into preseason camp as senior Priscilla Armendariz (Blue Springs, Mo.) will battle for the job with incoming freshman Jade Hayes (Ozark, Mo.). Armendariz is the team's active leader in digs, digs per set, matches played and sets played but Hayes brings with her a lofty list of accolades, including two Gatorade Missouri Player of the Year honors and she was the PrepVolleyball.com National Player of the Year as a high school junior in 2009. Both Armendariz and Hayes will play pivotal roles on this year's team, so look for the libero battle to be one of the most intriguing story lines of preseason camp.
Another great story line to follow will be the addition of new assistant coach Lindsey Hunter, which is a name that is undoubtedly familiar to Tiger fans. Hunter set for the Tigers during their most successful four-year stretch in program history and is a two-time All-American and the program's only first team AVCA All-American. She will head up the recruiting efforts for the Tigers and likely have a key role in mentoring Molly Kreklow, who shows potential to emerge as one of the Big 12's top setters in 2011.
Also, a variety of newcomers will see plenty of time on the court. As mentioned above, Hayes will play a pivotal role on the floor whether she suits up as a libero or a utility player, but there should be several other impact players as well. Emily Wilson (Omaha, Neb.), who is the younger sister of former Tiger Catie Wilson, will figure into the mix right away as one of the team's top attackers. She was twice named Nebraska Player of the Year and continues a Nebraska pipeline to Mizzou. She was also named to Volleyball Magazine's Fab 50.
Joining Hayes and Wilson on the Volleyball Magazine Fab 50 list this year is incoming middle hitter Whitney Little (Keller, Texas). Little is the reigning Fort Worth-Star Telegram Player of the Year in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and gives the Tigers and explosive 1-2 punch at that position as she will rotate behind Brimmage at the middle of the net.
Mizzou also boasts one of the nation's toughest schedules in 2011 as it will play 11 of its 32 matches against teams that qualified for the NCAA Tournament last season, including 16 matches against Big 12 competition, which once again figures to be one of the top volleyball leagues in the nation in 2011.
MUTigers.com will have a variety of practice updates and coverage of the Mizzou volleyball team as it prepares of the upcoming 2011 season, so for all the updates, be sure to check in with MUTigers.com and follow the team on twitter @MU_Volleyball.