Tigers Continue Nonconference Play at Denver

MUTIGERS.COM <i>Brittney Brimmage was named Big 12 Player of the Week on Tuesday.</i>
Brittney Brimmage was named Big 12 Player of the Week on Tuesday.

Sept. 6, 2011

Tournament Info: Denver Pioneer Classic Central
Date: Sept. 9-10
Time: Schedule Below (CT)
Location: Denver, Colo.
Arena: Hamilton Gymnasium
Live Stats: DenverPioneers.com
Game Notes: Media Notes Get Acrobat Reader

The Opening Serve - What You Need to Know
• Mizzou captured its second tournament title of the season after sweeping its way through the Middle Tennessee Blue Raider Bash last weekend. In all, Mizzou went 4-1 last week with its only loss coming at Middle Tennessee on Thursday in match that was not part of the tournament. All four of the Tigers' wins last weekend came against teams that finished with more than 20 wins in 2010.

• Mizzou currently leads the Big 12 Conference in attack percentage after hitting .360 through the first two weeks. In fact, Mizzou's offense as a whole was great last weekend as it ranks second in the Big 12 in assists per set (13.29) and kills per set (14.18) while ranking first in total kills and assists.

• The Tigers are in a stretch of playing 12 straight matches away from home and will have played nine-straight away from home after the Denver Invitational this weekend. Mizzou is currently 4-1 after the first five matches of the road trip but carries a four-match win streak into Denver this weekend.

• After claiming 14 Big 12 weekly honors in 2010, the Mizzou volleyball program has already claimed four this season as both Brittney Brimmage and Emily Wilson took home weekly honors this week. Brimmage was honored as the Player of the Week while Wilson was dubbed newcomer of the week for the second straight week. Mizzou has earned two of the three weekly award distinctions in five of the past seven weeks.

What's Inside? - A Quick Look at the Notes
• The Tigers will continue nonconference play with their third tournament of the season at the DU Invite.
• Mizzou is currently in a stretch of 12 straight matches away from home. Mizzou went 4-1 last weekend.
• Mizzou has won two-straight tournaments after sweeping through the Blue Raider Bash last weekend.
• The Tigers currently lead the Big 12 in hitting (.360) while ranking second in aps and kps.
• Five of the Tigers' top six attackers are hitting better than .300 in this season.
• Tiger senior Brittney Brimmage is currently leading the Big 12 in hitting by .119 points at .598.
• Brimmage was named Blue Raider Bash MVP and Big 12 Player of the Week for her efforts at MTSU.
• Brimmage hit .637 with a team-best 56 kills last weekend while pitching in 13 blocks.
• Despite losing Thursday, Mizzou is still receiving votes in the AVCA poll, checking in at No. 35 nationally.
• Tiger freshmen have combined for 47-percent of the Tigers' kills and points and 66-percent of the blocks.
• Freshman Emily Wilson leads all Big 12 freshmen in hitting (.395), kills (86) and kills per set (3.07).
• Wilson was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Week for her efforts at MTUS last weekend.
• Freshman Whitney Little became the fastest Tiger freshman ever to 30 blocks under the Kreklows.
• Little is the Big 12's fifth-ranked blocker as she is averaging 1.32 blocks per set this season.
• Sophomore Molly Kreklow continues to lead the Big 12 in assists per set at 11.61 this season.
• MU's block is much improved as it has 71 through nine matches, 15 more than it did through nine in 2010.
• MU's back row was better at the Blue Raider Bash, collecting 13.42. MU had just 11.83 at the Tiger Invite.
• Last weekend, head coach Wayne Kreklow earned his 600th win as a coach (assistant, women's, men's).

This Week
Coming off of its second nonconference tournament win at the Blue Raider Bash last weekend, the Mizzou volleyball team will continue nonconference play at the Denver Invitational from Sept. 9-10. The Tigers will play four matches in the two-day event, beginning Friday (Sept. 9) at noon against Drake. Mizzou will also play Texas-San Antonio, UC Davis and host Denver before returning home on Sunday.

• Friday - Mizzou vs. Drake - Noon (CT)
Mizzou vs. UT-San Antonio - 7:30 p.m. (CT)

• Saturday - Mizzou vs. UC Davis - 4 p.m. (CT)
Mizzou at Denver - 8:30 p.m. (CT)

Last Time Out
Mizzou won four of five matches last weekend as it claimed the Middle Tennessee Blue Raider Bash Tournament Championship after going 4-0 in the tournament. Mizzou's only loss on the weekend came in four sets at Middle Tennessee State last Thursday in a match that was not part of the tournament. The Tigers swept all four of their wins in the tournament against Austin Peay, East Tennessee State, Florida International and 2010 NCAA Tournament team Auburn. All four of the teams that the Tigers beat over the weekend finished with at least 20 wins last season and Auburn played in last year's NCAA Tournament.

Three Tigers Earn All-Tournament Honors
Three Mizzou players were named to the MTSU Blue Raider Bash All-Tournament team following their performances in the four matches. Tiger senior middle hitter Brittney Brimmage (East St. Louis, Ill.) was named Blue Raider Bash MVP while both Molly Kreklow (Delano, Minn.) and Lisa Henning (Blue Springs, Mo.) were named to the All-Tournament team. Brimmage led Mizzou with 46 kills on .656 hitting in the tournament matches, both of which were team-bests. Kreklow dished 140 total assists (11.67 per set) while quarterbacking the Tiger offense to a .366 attack percentage. Henning had 41 kills on .372 hitting with 24 digs in the four matches over the weekend.

Brimmage Has Huge Week
As mentioned above, Tiger senior middle hitter Brittney Brimmage (East St. Louis, Ill.) had huge weekend en-route to earning Blue Raider Bash MVP honors. In the Tigers' five matches last weekend, Brimmage finished with a team-best 56 kills on .637 hitting, a mark that led the league last weekend. She also tallied 13 total blocks (two solo, 11 assists) while accounting for a team-high 63.5 total points on the weekend. Brimmage's season so far has been dominant as she is leading the Big 12 in hitting by .119 points with her .598 season average and she ranks ninth overall in the Big 12 in kills per set as there has been no team that has been able to slow her down this season.

Brimmage Named Big 12 Player of the Week
Brimmage, after her performance last weekend, was named Big 12 Player of the Week for her efforts, giving Mizzou two-straight Big 12 Player of the Week awards after sophomore setter Molly Kreklow (Delano, Minn.) took home the honor last week. Last year, Mizzou took home 14 Big 12 weekly honors and has claimed four so far this season as it looks to challenge that mark in 2011.

Offense Continues to Fire on All Cylinders
The Mizzou offense has been the story behind the Tigers' 8-1 start so far this season. In fact, Mizzou continues to lead the Big 12 in hitting at .360 after the Blue Raider Bash last weekend. Five of the Tigers' top six attackers are hitting better than .335 this season and three are hitting .400 or better. The Tigers have nearly four times as many kills (397) as errors this season (100). The Tigers also rank second in the Big 12 in kills per set (14.18) and are tied for the team lead in assists per set (13.29).

Kreklow Leads Big 12 in Assists Per Set
A big reason for the great offensive numbers for the Tigers has been the play of sophomore setter Molly Kreklow, who continues to lead the Big 12 in assists per set at 11.61. She also continues to improve as an all-around player this season as well. She has improved her blocking as she has 19 total blocks this season and she tallied a career-best seven against FIU on Saturday. She has also improved her attacking as she has 24 kills on .400 hitting this season, a vast improvement from her freshman year when she had 74 kills on just .150 hitting.

Balance is Key for Offense
Through nine matches last season, former Tiger All-American Paola Ampudia had established herself as the Tigers' top weapon with 116 kills through the first nine matches. This year, the Tigers seem to show more balance on offense as three Tigers have at least 86 kills while sophomore outside hitter Lisa Henning (Blue Springs, Mo.) leads the way with 96. The Tigers' top three attackers are all hitting at least .335 and are separated by just 10 total kills.

Henning Continues to Swing Well
Sophomore outside hitter Lisa Henning (Blue Springs, Mo.) continues to lead Mizzou in kills this season with 96 through the first nine matches. She is also hitting .335 on the season and at this point last year, Henning has just 82 kills on 197 swings while this year she has 96 on 203. She is also hitting .335 compared to her .273 clip through the first nine matches last season. Her 3.43 kills per set this season also rank her eighth in the Big 12.

Freshmen Continue to Produce
After nine matches this season, it is clear that the Tiger freshman class is going to play a key role in the team's success this season. In fact, Tiger freshmen have combined to make up 187 of the Tigers' 397 kills (47-percent), 46.5 of the team's 71.0 total blocks (66-percent) and 241.0 of the team's 508.0 total points (47-percent). The Tiger freshman class has also combined to pull in 131 of the team's 334 digs (39-percent).

Not So Little at the Net
Over the weekend, Tiger freshman Whitney Little (Keller, Texas) surpassed the 30-block mark in the Tigers' seventh match of the season. She is the fastest Tiger to reach 30 blocks in a season since Weiwen Wang in 2008 and she is the fastest Tiger freshman to reach to the 30-block mark under the direction of Wayne and Susan Kreklow (since 2000). Currently, Little has a team-high 37 blocks and her 1.32 blocks per set rank her fifth in the Big 12 Conference. Adding to her production, Little is hitting .474 with 45 kills this season.

Wilson Continues to Impress
One of the freshmen that has continued to put up great numbers so far this season has been Emily Wilson (Omaha, Neb.). Wilson was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Week for the second straight week for her performance at MTSU. She is currently third on the team in kills (86) and in hitting (.474) and has been one of the Tigers' top attackers all season long. She leads all Big 12 freshmen in hitting, total kills and kills per set (3.07). No Tiger freshman has hit as well as Wilson has in her first nine matches since Wayne and Susan Kreklow took over the program in 2000.

Pip Has a Better Weekend
After the first weekend of play, senior libero Priscilla Armendariz was consistent for the Tigers as she pulled in 3.67 digs per set. But over the four Blue Raider Bash matches last weekend, Armendariz was even better as she collected 4.17 digs per set with 50 total digs. She also converted 57 of 58 service receptions in those four matches as she continues to be the Tigers' top passer in the back row.

Back Row Improves as a Whole
It is no surprise that with Armendariz's improved play last weekend, the Tiger back row was much better at the Blue Raider Bash than it was at the Tiger Invite. At the annual Tiger Invitational, the Tigers averaged just 11.83 digs per set and had a .950 service reception percentage. Those numbers improved at the Blue Raider Bash as the back row combined to pull in 13.42 digs per set (161 overall) while converting 194 of 203 service receptions. The Tiger back row play was a big reason why Mizzou was able to hit .366 as a team against four teams that won more than 20 matches a season ago.

Hayes Continues to Impress
Freshman Jade Hayes had a good weekend in the back row for the Tigers at Middle Tennessee State. She pulled in 33 digs in the five matches, including a career-best 12 in the Tigers' win over East Tennessee State on Saturday morning. She has been very consistent in the back row, giving Mizzou two good options in the back row. Hayes was a two-time Gatorade Missouri State Player of the Year and the PrepVolleyball.com National Player of the Year in 2009.

Blocking is Better
Mizzou's block has been much better through the first nine matches this season than it was through the first nine last season. In fact, Mizzou has 71.0 total blocks this season which is 15.0 more than the 56.0 that the Tigers had at this point last season. The big keys are the addition of Whitney Little and the fact that Molly Kreklow is a much better blocker this season. In fact, Kreklow had just eight block assists last season at this time. This year, Kreklow has 19 total, including two solo blocks.

Kreklow 12 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 12 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 surpassed his 600th win all-time as a coach (assistant, men's coach, women's coach) at both Mizzou and Columbia College over the weekend with the Tigers' win over Florida International. In all, Wayne and Susan Kreklow have combined for 739 wins as a coaching duo, 230 of which have come during their 11-plus seasons at Mizzou.

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.

Scouting Drake
The Drake volleyball team has a record of 2-4 after going 1-2 at both the Southern Utah Invitational and the Sheraton West Des Moines Drake Invitational. Drake came into this season relying heavily on its five returning seniors and especially on senior captains Caitlin Johnson and Mikayla Sims. Johnson is leading the Bulldogs with 8.96 assists per set and Sims is leading the Bulldogs with 2.44 kills per set. The Bulldogs were picked to finish sixth in the MVC preseason coaches' poll.

Scouting UT-San Antonio
The UT-San Antonio volleyball team has a record of 2-4. Junior Whitney Walls and Senior Kelsey Jewasko won the Southland Offensive and Defensive players of the week last week. Walls leads the team with 3.22 kills per set. Jewasko became just the third player in UTSA history to surpass 1,800 digs for her career and for the season she averages 6.52 per set. The Roadrunners won the Southland Conference Tournament last season and made their second NCAA Tournament appearance last season. They were voted to win the Southland Conference again this season.

Scouting UC Davis
The UC-Davis Aggies are currently 6-1 on the young season with their only blemish coming from North Dakota St. in the Park Inn Hurricane Invitational. UC Davis had a big win over host Tulsa in the same tournament. Junior Allison Whitson is leading the Aggies with 3.56 kills per set and co-captain Jenny Woolway is leading the team in sets with 11.13 per set.

Scouting Denver
The Denver Pioneers have a current record of 2-4, with wins over Air Force in the Denver Invitational and San Jose St. in the Sheraton Classic. They are lead by Junior Faimie Kingsley and red shirt senior Julia Cawthra. Kingsley leads the team in both kills and blocks at 2.92 kills per set and 1.69 blocks per set. Cawthra leads the team in assists with 8.85 per set. The Pioneers return 7 letter winners and were voted to finish third in the Sun Belt Conference's West division.

Program Highlights
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.

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.

Up Next
The Tigers will play in their final nonconference tournament of the season next weekend in Washington, D.C. as they will play in the American Classic. Mizzou will square off against Western Kentucky, Villanova and host school American. For all the latest on Mizzou volleyball, stay tuned to MUTigers.com and follow the team on twitter @MU_Volleyball.



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