Video: Seeting the Table for Success
Tournament Info: MTSU Blue Raider Bash
Date: Sept. 1-4
Time: Schedule Below (CT)
Location: Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Arena: Alumni Memorial Gym
Live Stats: GoBlueRaiders.com.com
Game Notes: Notes
The Opening Serve - What You Need to Know
Mizzou captured its fourth-consecutive Tiger Invitational title last weekend after sweeping four matches against Binghamton, Tulane, Idaho State and North Dakota State. A trio of Tigers - Molly Kreklow, Emily Wilson and Brittney Brimmage - earned a spot on the All-Tournament Team while Kreklow was named Tiger Invitational MVP.
Mizzou currently leads the Big 12 Conference in attack percentage after hitting .415 in the opening weekend of play. In fact, Mizzou's offense as a whole was great last weekend as it ranks second in the Big 12 in assists per set (14.17) and third in kills per set (15.08) while ranking first in total kills and assists.
The Middle Tennessee State Blue Raider Bash marks the beginning of a stretch in which the Tigers will play 12 straight matches away from home. In fact, Mizzou will not play in Columbia again until Sept. 24 against Texas A&M, which will be the Tigers' second Big 12 Conference match.
After claiming 14 Big 12 weekly honors in 2010, the Mizzou volleyball program picked up right where it left off last year as a pair of Tigers earned weekly awards when the Big 12 Conference announced its players of the week. Sophomore setter Molly Kreklow earned Big 12 Player of the Week for the first time in her career and freshman outside hitter Emily Wilson earned Big 12 Newcomer of the Week.
What's Inside? - A Quick Look at the Notes
Mizzou will play in five matches over four days in Murfreesboro, Tenn., as part of the Blue Raider Bash.
The five matches away from home will open a stretch of 12-straight games away from home for Mizzou.
The Tigers currently lead the Big 12 in hitting (.415) while ranking second in aps and third in kps.
Five of the Tigers' top six attackers last weekend hit better than .300 in the four matches last weekend.
Mizzou captured its fourth consecutive Tiger Invitational title last weekend after tallying four sweeps.
Mizzou has started a season 4-0 for the second straight year. The Tigers started 7-0 last season.
Following their performance last weekend, the Tigers received 33 votes in the AVCA Top 25, ranking 29.
The much-heralded Tiger freshman class combined for 87 kills on .371 hitting and 56 digs last weekend.
Sophomore Molly Kreklow earned Tiger Invite MVP after leading the Big 12 in aps last weekend at 12.42.
Kreklow earned Big 12 Player of the Week honors for her efforts over the weekend as well.
Sophomore Lisa Henning led the Tigers with 47 kills on .402 hitting last weekend while pulling in 23 digs.
Brittney Brimmage (.538) and Emily Wilson currently rank 1-2 in the Big 12 in hitting.
Wilson was very impressive in her first weekend as a Tiger, posting 46 kills on .488 hitting.
For her efforts, Wilson was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Week for the first time in her career.
Mizzou averaged 2.50 blocks per set last weekend, a vast improvement from 2010, when it averaged 1.95.
Freshman Whitney Little led the Tigers with 15 blocks on the weekend. She is eighth in the Big 12 in bps.
The Tiger block is a big reason why Mizzou ranks second in the league in opponent hitting at .119.
Blue Raider Bash
The Mizzou volleyball team, after a 4-0 start to the season at last weekend's Tiger Invitational, will return to action this week as it heads to Murfreesboro, Tenn., for the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raider Bash. The Tigers will square off against Austin Peay, East Tennessee State, Florida International and Auburn and they will play a non-conference match that is not part of the tournament against Middle Tennessee State on Thursday (Sept. 1). In all, Mizzou will play five matches in three days. A complete schedule of action is below.
Sept. 1 at Middle Tennessee State - 7 p.m.
Sept. 2 vs. Austin Peay - 5 p.m.
Sept. 3 vs. East Tennessee State - Noon
vs. Florida International - 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 4 vs. Auburn - 12:30 p.m.
Last Time Out
The Tigers won their fourth consecutive Tiger Invitational last weekend after going 4-0 against North Dakota State, Binghamton, Idaho State and Tulane. The 4-0 start to the 2011 season marks the second straight year that Mizzou has opened the season 4-0 as it ran off seven in a row last season before falling at Western Kentucky in its eighth match last year. Mizzou swept all four of its matches last weekend, also marking the second straight year that Mizzou has swept its first four matches.
Offense Fires on All Cylinders
Coming into the 2011 season, the Tigers were faced with replacing nearly 70 percent of their offensive production from their Sweet 16 season a year ago, but after the first weekend of play, it appears that the Tigers have done just that. In fact, after the first weekend of play, Mizzou is tops in the league in hitting (.415), second in assists per set (14.17) and third in kills per set (15.08) while ranking first in total kills and assists. Mizzou's .415 attack percentage last weekend is nearly .100 better than the next-best team in the league after week one.
Three Land on All-Tournament Team; Kreklow Named MVP
After the Tigers' dominant performance last weekend, a trio of Tigers earned All-Tournament honors, highlighted by sophomore setter Molly Kreklow, who was named Tiger Invitational MVP. Also earning a spot on the All-Tournament Team were freshman outside hitter Emily Wilson and senior middle hitter Brittney Brimmage.
Kreklow was an easy choice for MVP as she led the Tiger offense to a Big 12-best .415 attack percentage on the weekend while leading a Tiger attack that got at least 20 kills from four different players on the weekend. She also dished 12.42 assists per set last weekend, a mark that currently leads the Big 12, as do her 149 total assists. Wilson, in her Tiger debut, hit .488 with 26 kills as she currently ranks second in the Big 12 in attack percentage and second in total kills. Brimmage was unstoppable as well with a .538 attack percentage and 33 kills. She currently leads the Big 12 in hitting after week one.
Kreklow Earns Big 12 Player of the Week
As mentioned above, Molly Kreklow was easily the best setter in the Big 12 statistically after week one and she earned Big 12 Player of the Week for her efforts. Her 12.42 assists per set leads the Big 12 and ranks third nationally and her 149 assists are also a league best. Her 42 assists in the Tigers' sweep of Idaho State currently rank as the top three-set mark in the Big 12 this season and fifth overall. The 42 assists in that match rank as Kreklow's fourth-best mark all-time in a three-set match. Her all-time best in three sets was 47 against Rice last year at Pepperdine.
Kreklow also showed improvement in her all-around game last weekend as well. After hitting just .150 in her freshman season, Kreklow showed the ability to attack last weekend as she hit .571 with 13 kills on 21 swings and just one error. She also pulled in 16 digs and tallied five blocks, showing that she is becoming a complete player.
Wilson Named Big 12 Newcomer of the Week
Freshman Emily Wilson easily was the Tigers' biggest surprise last weekend as she exploded onto the scene with incredible numbers. In fact, she hit .488 with 46 kills, which was just one off of the team-lead for the weekend. She led the Tigers in kills in two of the four matches over the weekend despite playing in front-row rotations only. Her .488 attack percentage is the best ever by a Tiger true freshman in their first weekend of play under Wayne and Susan Kreklow.
Henning Breaks Out
Emily Wilson wasn't the only Tiger to have a phenomenal weekend at the Tiger Invitational as sophomore Lisa Henning put together a great tournament. She led the Tigers with 47 kills on .402 hitting while averaging 3.92 kills per set. She also pulled in 23 digs while playing in back-row rotations for the first time in her career. In fact, she posted her first career double-double with 13 kills and 11 digs in the tournament finale against North Dakota State. She also served for the Tigers for the first time in her career over the weekend and recorded two aces, including one on her first career service.
Freshmen Shine in Debuts
Much attention was brought to the Tigers' freshman class heading into the 2011 season as the class makes up half of the Tigers' roster. But despite the youth, the talent shined through last weekend as the Tiger freshman class combined for 87 kills (nearly half of the Tigers' total kills) on .371 hitting as both Emily Wilson and Whitney Little hit over .400 for the weekend. The trio up front -consisting of Wilson, Little and Katie O'Brien - also combined for 15.5 of the Tigers 30.0 total blocks on the weekend and accounted for 109.5 of the Tigers' 232.0 total points over the four matches. On the back row, the Tiger freshmen combined to pull in 56 of the team's 142 total digs as well.
Pip Thrives in Libero Role
Another big hole that the Tigers' needed to fill heading into the season was that of departing senior libero Caitlyn Vann, but after the first weekend of play, senior and four-year starter Priscilla Armendariz has seemed to seize that role. She led the Tigers with 44 digs (3.67 per set) while converting 53 of 54 service receptions and turning in plenty of great passes. She played in all 12 sets for the Tigers last weekend and pitched in four service aces.
Blocking was one of the Tigers' weaknesses on their Sweet 16 team from a year ago, but if the first weekend of play is any indication, they have seemed to turn that around this season. In fact, after averaging just 1.95 blocks per set last season, the Tigers averaged 2.50 in the first four matches this season, highlighted by the play of freshman Whitney Little, who led the Tigers with 15 on the weekend (one solo, 14 assists). Little currently ranks eighth in the Big 12 in blocks per set at 1.25.
Every front row player for the Tigers had a block last weekend and four had at least seven. In Mizzou's sweep over Idaho State on Friday night, the Tigers tallied 12.0 total bocks. In 2010, the Tigers eclipsed the 12.0-block mark just four times and three of those four matches lasted more than three sets.
Tiger Defense Shines
The Tiger block, combined with the play of the Tiger back row in week one, currently has Mizzou ranked second in the Big 12 in opponent hitting percentage at .119. The Tiger defense kept its opponents out of sync all weekend at the Tiger Invitational as their opponents hit over .300 in just two of 12 sets in the tournament while the Tigers held their opponents to under .125 hitting in six of 12 sets.
Hayes Impresses in Debut Weekend
Freshman Jade Hayes came to Mizzou with plenty of accolades after a stellar four-year career at Ozark High School and she showed why last weekend. The libero-in-waiting showed why she has that title as she corralled 30 digs over the weekend, including some sensational plays that kept key rallies alive in the Tigers' sweep of North Dakota State; she pulled in a career-best 10 digs in that match. She was also perfect on 21 service receptions.
Brimmage, Wilson Rank 1-2 in Big 12
After the Tigers hit a Big 12-best .415 over the first weekend of play at the Tiger Invitational, it was a forgone conclusion that several Tigers would rank at or near the top of the league's hitting ranks. In fact, senior middle hitter and preseason All-Big 12 honoree Brittney Brimmage leads the Big 12 with her .538 attack percentage this season as she tallied 33 kills on 52 swings with just five errors last weekend. Emily Wilson ranks second in the league with her .488 clip as she had 46 kills on 84 swings with just five errors. Lisa Henning also ranks just outside the league's top 10 with a .402 clip as well.
Kreklow 16 Shy of 400
Heading into the season, Mizzou head coach Wayne Kreklow sat 20 wins shy of his 400th as a head volleyball coach, but after four wins over the weekend, he now sits just 16 shy of 400 in his career. Should he reach 400 this season, he will be one of just three coaches in the Big 12 to have cracked the 400-win plateau. Kreklow also sits just three wins shy of his 600th win all-time as a coach (assistant, men's coach, women's coach) after his career at both Mizzou and Columbia College. In all, Wayne and Susan Kreklow have combined for 735 wins as a coaching duo, 226 of which have come during their 11-plus seasons.
O'Brien, Hayes Contribute
Although freshmen Emily Wilson and Whitney Little stole the headlines last weekend, two other Tiger freshmen made huge contributions. Katie O'Brien was great at the outside hitter position with 23 kills and five blocks while Jade Hayes pulled in 30 digs while converting all 21 of her service reception chances.
Tigers Picked Fifth in Big 12
Despite the youth on the Tiger roster, the league's coaches seem to recognize the level of talent on this year's team as the Tigers were picked to finish fifth in the Big 12 in the annual preseason poll. In all, Mizzou finished the polling with 32 points, just behind fourth-place Texas A&M and just ahead of sixth-place Baylor. The Tigers were picked fifth in last year's preseason poll and ended up advancing to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16.
Young, but Talented
Despite bringing back four players that started for Mizzou last season, the Tigers will be one of the youngest teams nationally. In fact, nearly 80-percent of the Tigers' roster in 2011 are underclassmen as 11 of the 14 players are freshmen or sophomores. That makes Mizzou the youngest team in the Big 12 and only Texas Tech (16 underclassmen) has more freshman or sophomores on their roster. However, Mizzou's last two recruiting classes have ranked in the top 25 nationally, including this year's freshman class, which checked in at No. 22 nationally. The 2010 class ranked 14th nationally.
The Tigers just completed the most successful decade in program history last year. In fact, Mizzou has averaged 22 wins per season since 2000 and is one of just 22 teams nationally to qualify for nine NCAA Tournaments since 2000. The Tigers were on that average last year with 22 wins and a Sweet 16 berth.
Scouting Middle Tennessee State
Middle Tennessee was selected as the preseason favorites to take home the Sun Belt title again this year. This marks the second consecutive and fourth time in the last five years to be named preseason favorites. The Blue Raiders are coming off a 15-1 conference mark, and with returning All SBC First Team members Maria Szivos and Ashley Adams, MTSU is looking to make another run this year. The Blue Raiders were 29-6 last year.
Scouting Austin Peay
The Lady Governors were selected to finish second in the league's preseason poll this year. Austin Peay State received five first place votes. Outside hitter Nikki Doyle (junior) was selected to the preseason Ohio Valley Conference team. The team boasted a 26-8 record overall last season, and is looking to improve upon that mark this season.
Scouting East Tennessee State
East Tennessee State looks to build upon its successful campaign last year. The Bucs finished 26-9 overall last season and advanced to their first trip to the Atlantic Sun Conference in school history. Outside hitter Megan Devine (sophomore) looks to improve on her outstanding freshman campaign where she was first on the team in kills and points and earned the honor of Athletic Sun Freshman of the Year.
Scouting Florida International
The Panthers of FIU were picked to finish third in the East Division of the Sun Belt Conference preseason poll this year. The Panthers finished their season last year with a 20-11 record. Under the lead of three-time SBC Coach of the Year Danijela Tomic, the Panthers look to develop their program even further this season.
Auburn was picked to finish fourth in the Western Division of the SEC this year. The Tigers' new head coach Rick Nold looks to build on an up-and-coming Auburn program. After a season with more overall and conference wins in over a decade (21 overall wins, 11 conference wins) and the school's first trip to the NCAA tournament, the Tigers will turn to experience as they look to improve on their record from last year.
Hunter Joins Coaching Staff
There are few Mizzou athletes that are accomplished as Lindsey Hunter and she will look to parlay her success as a player into success as a coach as she joins the Mizzou coaching staff in 2011. Hunter takes the place of former assistant Chris Muscat, who took the head coaching job at Loyola (Chicago) last year. Hunter is Mizzou's all-time leader in assists, assists per set, single season assists and set for the Tigers in the most successful four-year period in program history. She will serve as the primary recruiting coordinator for the Tigers. She spent last season as the color analyst for the Tiger volleyball matches while working towards her master's degree as a graduate assistant with Mizzou's Total Person Program.
Kreklow Sets With USA Junior National Team
For the second consecutive summer, sophomore setter Molly Kreklow set with the USA Volleyball Junior National Team. She has spent plenty of time with USA Volleyball in her career as she was also with the Youth National Team for two seasons. She has now spent four years with USA Volleyball, gaining plenty of high-level experience along the way.
Brimmage Plays With USA Volleyball As Well
Kreklow wasn't the only Tiger to play with USA Volleyball over the summer as Brittney Brimmage led the USA Volleyball A2 Blue Team to a USA Volleyball Women's Open Division Championship. She helped her team go 4-0 (winning 12 of 15 sets) during pool play. The team was then bumped to the loser's bracket and came all the way back to win the tournament. She was one of the team's top middle hitters throughout the tournament.
Henning Tours China
Sophomore Lisa Henning had an experience of a lifetime over the summer as she played volleyball in China, touring and playing some of the nation's top professional teams. Henning and her team compiled a 2-4 record in six matches in China, playing against very disciplined, professional competition. She also visited places like the Great Wall, Forbidden City and Temple of Heaven.
Recruiting Class Earns National Honors
For the second straight season, the Mizzou volleyball program has brought in a nationally-ranked recruiting class as this year's checks in at No. 22 nationally. The 2011 class comes on the heels of the Tigers' No. 14-ranked class in 2010. Three of the signees - Jade Hayes, Whitney Little and Emily Wilson - were named to the Volleyball Magazine NFINITY Fab 50. With a pair of top 25 classes in consecutive seasons, look for those nine players to be the nucleus of the Mizzou volleyball program in the years to come.
Hayes Brings Plenty of Accolades
Freshman utility player Jade Hayes is one of the headliners of Mizzou's 2011 freshman class and she brings with her the accolades to back it up. She is a two-time Gatorade Missouri State Player of the Year and was the AVCA National Player of the Year as a junior in 2009. She led Ozark High School to a state title in 2009 and a third-place finish in 2010. She was also named MVP of the AVCA/Under Armour High School All-America match last year as well and was named to the Volleyball Magazine Fab 50 and PrepVolleyball.com's Defensive Dandy list.
Hayes projects as a libero long term at the collegiate level, but this season she will likely have a utility role due to her versatility, although she will likely battle for the libero job with Priscilla Armendariz. Listed a 6-0, she can hit, serve and defend and will also likely serve as the team's backup setter.
Little Named Forth Worth Player of the Year
Incoming freshman Whitney Little has also gained her fair share of accolades as she comes into Mizzou this season. The 6-3 middle blocker was a PrepVolleyball.com Senior Ace, a Volleyball Magazine Fab 50 selection and a member of the AVCA High School All-America Watch List, but her greatest honor came from the Fort worth Star-Telegram, which named her as the Super Team Player of the Year.
Wilson Continues Nebraska Pipeline
It has been no secret that Mizzou, under the direction of Wayne and Susan Kreklow, has been able to recruit the state of Nebraska with a lot of success. Names like All-Americans Lindsey Hunter, Nicole Wilson and former Big 12 Libero of the Year Tatum Ailes are just a few of the successful Nebraska natives to come through Mizzou in the last 11 seasons. And the tradition with continue this season as Emily Wilson will make her debut with Mizzou. She is the sister of former Tiger middle hitter Catie Wilson and was voted MVP of the All-Nebraska State Team twice in her high school career. The 6-2 outside hitter should figure into the mix right away for the Tigers.
A Competitive Schedule
With the departure of Colorado and Nebraska from the Big 12 Conference, a new-look schedule will take hold in the Big 12 this season. Instead of playing 20 league matches, each team will now play 16, playing each team twice. The loss of four matches has led to an additional non-conference tournament for the Tigers this season, giving the Tigers a chance to test themselves against some of the top non-conference competition in the nation. In fact, Mizzou will play 11 of its 32 matches against teams that qualified for the NCAA Tournament last season. Mizzou will also have trips to Washington D.C. and Denver this season.
`Bridging' A Local Connection
The Mizzou volleyball family has always played a very active role in the City of Columbia community, and that trend is continuing at Rock Bridge High School, one of two local Columbia high schools. There is a growing connection between the two schools that has moved beyond coincidence. Former Tiger and 2007 Big 12 Libero of the Year Tatum Ailes is now the head coach as Rock Bridge and her assistant coach is none other than former Mizzou middle hitter Catie Wilson, who graduated last season. Keep in mind that Wilson's sister - Emily Wilson - is a freshman on this year's Mizzou roster as well.
But the connections don't stop there. Current Tiger freshman Niki Collier led Rock Bridge to its first district title in 25 years in 2010 before eventually signing with the Tigers for the upcoming season. Not only that, but Wayne and Susan Kreklow's daughter Allie is a setter for the Rock Bridge volleyball team. The connection shows how connected the Tiger program has been with the community for the 11 years that Wayne and Susan Kreklow have been at Mizzou.
Tigers to Appear on ESPNU
For the first time since 2005, the Mizzou volleyball team will appear on ESPNU when it travels to Iowa State on Sept. 21. The match marks the first Big 12 match of the season for the Tigers and Cyclones in what should be a pivotal match against two of the league's favorites early in the season. The match at Hilton Coliseum is slated to begin at 6:30 p.m. Remember, it was a four-set upset over No. 12 Iowa State in Ames that sparked the Tigers' second-half surge towards the NCAA Tournament last season.
Volleyball on the Air
If you can't be at the Tigers' matches this season, you can still catch all of the action at MUTigers.com as all of the matches will be streamed with audio and home matches will have video and audio. Jim Grundy will be in his first year as the team's play-by-play announcer and former Tiger Marissa Ferri will join his as the color commentator. All broadcasts can be accessed at MUTigers.tv.
Mizzou will be back in action next weekend as they travel to Denver, Colo., for the Denver Pioneer Classic from Sept. 9-10. On hand at the two-day event will be Drake, Texas-San Antonio, UC Davis and host school Denver. For all the latest on Mizzou volleyball stay tuned to MUTigers.com and follow the team on twitter @MU_Volleyball.