Mizzou Volleyball vs. #17 Tennessee
Date: Sept. 12
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Columbia, Mo.
Arena: Hearnes Center
Live Stream: WatchESPN.com
Twitter Updates: @MU_Volleyball
Game Notes: Mizzou vs. #17 Tennessee Notes
What's Inside? - A Quick Look at the Notes
Mizzou will play its inaugural SEC match against No. 17 Tennessee Wednesday at 7 p.m. on ESPNU.
The Tigers and Vols last met in the Elite Eight in 2005, with Tennessee denying Mizzou its first ever Final Four.
Current Tiger assistant coach Lindsey Hunter was the setter on that Tiger team in 2005.
Mizzou is 1-1 all-time against UT, with both meetings coming in 2005.
Setter Molly Kreklow played on the same team as UT's Tiffany Baker at the USAVB A-2 Program last summer.
Middle hitter Whitney Little also played on a rival club teams of Bakers; both grew up in the Dallas area.
Wednesday's match features the SEC's top two attackers in Mizzou's Lisa Henning and UT's Kelsey Robinson.
Robinson and Henning are ranked 1-2, respectively, in kills per set and points per set in the SEC.
Henning is No. 5 on the active kill leaders list in the SEC w/ 934. She is the top junior on the list.
Whitney Little was named SEC Defensive Player of the Week on Monday. She averaged 1.78 bps last week.
Little had Mizzou's first block-kill double-double in five years last weekend with 12 kills and 12 blocks at MSU.
Her 12 blocks in that match are just one shy of matching the Mizzou rally scoring record and are third all-time.
Junior setter Molly Kreklow became the fifth Tiger to ever surpass 3,000 career assists last weekend.
It is worth nothing that if Kreklow played in 30-point sets, she'd be on pace to set the school career assist record.
Mizzou ranks third in the SEC in hitting (.310) and fourth in aces (1.52), opponent hitting (.154) and blocks (2.38).
Individually, Lisa Henning is second in the SEC in points pet set (5.11) and in kills per set (4.39)
Also,Whitney Little is second in the SEC in hitting at .446 while Molly Kreklow is fourth in assists (10.73).
Mizzou hit .493 vs. Savannah State and .477 vs. Nicholls State, the second- and third-best marks in the SEC.
The Tigers have at least four blocks in all 10 matches this season and have six blocks in eight of 10.
Mizzou is holding teams to just .154 hitting this year. Mizzou has not held a team to below .200 in a season since 2005.
Jade Hayes has pulled in double-digit digs in nine of 10 matches this season.
A New Era Officially Begins
The Mizzou volleyball program will officially usher in a new era on Wednesday as it plays its inaugural SEC match against No. 17 Tennessee, which was picked to win the SEC by the league's 13 coaches. The match will begin at 7 p.m. and is the first of three Tiger matches that will air live on ESPNU. Mizzou and Tennessee are currently 2-3 in the SEC East standings at 8-2 and 7-2, respectively. The first 500 fans to the match will receive free t-shirts. With ESPNU, fans are also encouraged to participate in a sign contest with prizes for the best.
Rocky (Top) Memories
The match Wednesday will undoubtedly bring up uneasy memories for the Mizzou volleyball faithful. In the last meeting between the two teams, Mizzou was upended by Tennessee in the Elite Eight, denying Mizzou its first ever Final Four. That loss came despite Mizzou sweeping the Vols earlier in the season. Current assistant coach and former All-American Lindsey Hunter was the setter on that team in 2005. In all, those two meetings in 2005 are the only two between the two programs in history.
Mizzou and Tennessee have plenty of connections that reach past that 2005 season as well. Junior setter Molly Kreklow played with UT's Tiffany Baker on the Red Team at this summers' USA Volleyball A-2 Program, guiding the team to a fourth-place finish. Baker has another connection as she and Mizzou's Whitney Little played on rival club teams while growing up in the Dallas area.
Last Time Out
Mizzou took second at the Morehead State Eagle Classic last weekend after being upset by Morehead State in the Tigers' second match of the tournament in five sets. Mizzou swept both Valparaiso and Savannah State to round out action in that tournament. In the match with Morehead, the Tigers out-hit and out-blocked the Eagles, but still lost. The Tigers blew a 23-21 lead in the second set and a 7-3 lead in the fifth set. Molly Kreklow and Lisa Henning were named to the All-Tournament team.
Little Named SEC Defensive Player of the Week - Rewrites Record Book
For the second consecutive week, a Mizzou volleyball player has been honored by the SEC as this week sophomore Whitney Little was named SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Week on Monday (Sept. 10). The honor for Little is the first weekly honor in her career and it is the second for the Tigers this season after Lisa Henning was named Offensive Player of the Week last Tuesday. Little was sensational at the middle blocker position last weekend as she averaged 1.78 blocks per set while hitting .465 with 2.44 kills per set. She also etched her name into the Mizzou record books on Friday night against Morehead State as she posted 12 blocks, just one shy of the Mizzou rally scoring record (13 by Weiwen Wang at Colorado in 2007). She also tallied 12 kills in that match on .393 hitting, marking the Tigers' first block-kill double-double since 2007 (also Wang at Colorado). She did all of that despite fighting a case of the stomach flu.
Little Playing Big Lately
Little had a sub-par match for the Tigers against Lipscomb, but has been on a tear ever since. Over her last four matches, she is .450 while averaging 2.50 kills per set while averaging 1.50 blocks per set with four aces. Her best match in that span was clearly against Morehead State with her block-kill double-double. As of right now, Little is second in the SEC in hitting at .446 overall and if the season ended tomorrow, she would rank first all-time in single-season hitting at Mizzou. She has moved her career hitting percentage to .314, which ranks fifth all-time at Mizzou while her 1.09 blocks per set in her career rank her first all-time at Mizzou.
Improved Defense Sparks Tigers
The primary reason for the Tigers' 5-1 record over the last six has been improved defensive play. In fact, after the first weekend of play, Mizzou was statistically in the bottom half of the SEC in every defensive category. But after the last six matches, Mizzou has climbed those rankings. Below is a look at the improvement.
First Four Matches (SEC Rank)
Tigers Limiting Opponent Hitting This Season
Opponent Hitting - .211 (11th)
Digs per set - 13.69 (13th)
Blocks ser set - 1.92 (10th)
Next Six Matches (Current SEC Rank)
Opponent Hitting - .119 (4th)
Digs per set - 15.40 (9th)
Blocks per set - 2.67 (4th)
So far this season, a trend is developing that is different from the Tiger teams over the last several seasons. Mizzou is holding its opponents to just a .154 attack percentage, good for the fourth-best clip in the SEC this season. In fact, Mizzou has limited its opponents to under .200 hitting in eight of 10 matches, winning seven of those, and has held teams to under .200 hitting in six straight matches. The Tigers have not held their opponents under .200 hitting in a season since 2005. Even in its Sweet 16 season two years ago, Mizzou allowed teams to hit .233, so the improved defensive play is reason for excitement. Mizzou's only loss this season when holding teams to less than .200 hitting came at Morehead State last Saturday.
A key reason for the Tigers' improved play is easy to see in the stats as it has been the block that has been the key reason for the low opponent hitting percentages this season. In fact, over the last six matches, Mizzou is averaging 2.67 blocks per set while it is at 2.38 for the season. Mizzou has had at least four blocks in every match this season and has been over six in eight of 10 matches and over eight in six of 10 matches. The Tigers have lost just one match when posting more than six blocks in a match this season and that came last weekend at Morehead State when they had a season-high 16.0 over five sets.
Historic First Two Seasons for Kreklow
Junior setter Molly Kreklow has accomplished a lot in her short career at Mizzou and the numbers show it. In fact, Kreklow has quarterbacked the Tigers to a 43-24 record (.657) over the past two seasons and a pair of NCAA Tournament wins (2-2 overall record, including a Sweet 16 appearance). The 43 wins for the Tigers over the last two seasons are the most for a Tiger setter since All-American and current assistant coach Lindsey Hunter won 45 matches from 2002-03. Kreklow already has more NCAA Tournament wins than Hunter did through her first two seasons. Also, Kreklow has set the Tigers to a .232 attack percentage in her first two seasons, the Tigers' best two-year attack percentage since 2004-05, when Hunter led the team to a .292 clip over those two seasons. Kreklow now has 51 wins in her two-plus seasons at Mizzou.
The Tigers have certainly had their fair share of great setters under the direction of Wayne and Susan Kreklow, but Molly Kreklow may be the best, although she will likely never catch Lindsey Hunter's school record of 6,097 career assists. Last weekend, Kreklow passed the 3,000-assist mark in her career, making her just the fifth Tiger to do so. It is worth noting that if Kreklow played in 30-point sets like her predecessors, she would be on pace to break Hunter's school record for career assists by 471.
Henning Makes History Too
Junior outside hitter Lisa Henning has been a huge asset for the Tigers in her first two seasons in black and gold as well. In fact, since the rally scoring era began (2001), no Tiger has compiled more kills in her first two seasons (four-year players) than Henning as she has posted 789 heading into the season. The next-best Tiger on the list is Jessica Vander Kooi, who tallied 678 in 2003 and 2004. Henning currently leads the team with145 kills this season, pushing her total to 934 over her two-plus seasons. Vander Kooi holds the record for kills in a Tigers' first three seasons with 1,040. Henning needs just 106 kills to pass that mark, so that is a stat to keep an eye on this season.
Top First Two-Year Kill Totals (four-year players)
Henning Top Junior in SEC
Henning - 789, 934 including her third season
Vander Kooi - 678 in first two seasons, 1,040 in first three
Na Yang - 602 in first two seasons, 953 in first three
Looking deeper into Henning's numbers so far, her 934 career kills are fifth among active SEC players and tops among SEC juniors, just ahead of Tennessee's Kelsy Robinson (915) as the two will go head to head Wednesday. The four players ranked ahead of Henning on the list are all senior as Arkansas' Jasmine Norton leads all active SEC players in kills with 1,499.
More on the Tiger Junior Class
With 43 wins through their first two seasons, the Mizzou junior class has the chance to become the winningest class in program history with almost two full seasons remaining. If you discount the years from 1974-1981 when a volleyball season featured close to 60 matches (as opposed to today's schedule which features closer to 35 matches per season), the Tiger junior class has a chance to become the winningest four-year class during the modern scheduling era in program history. With three wins last weekend, the class now has 49 wins in two-plus seasons. Below is a look at the winningest four-year stretches in program history (modern scheduling era).
Winningest Four-Year Stretches
Mizzou Posts Fourth-Best Attack Percentage in Program History
2002-05 - 90 wins
2002-04 - 89 wins
1982-85 - 84 wins
Mizzou Junior Class (Kreklow, Henning) - 49 wins
As a team, Mizzou hit .493 in its sweep of Savannah State last weekend, marking the fourth-best attack percentage by a Tiger team in the rally scoring era. Mizzou also had an attack percentage of .477 in a three-set sweep of Nicholls State earlier this season, which is the sixth-best mark in program history. Those two matches rank 2-3 in the SEC this season, trailing only Tennessee's .639 clip against Boston College in a three-set sweep back on Sept. 8.
Kreklow Improves Hitting
Heading into the season, junior setter Molly Kreklow was more known for her ability to run an offense, but it has been her offensive production that has caught the eye of many following the first two weekends of play. In addition to guiding the team to a .310 attack percentage, Kreklow also proved to be a formidable attacker, posting 37 kills on just 61 attacks with just one error, good for a .590 clip. While her main role will be to set up the Tiger offense, her improved attacking is reason for opponents to worry. She entered the season as just a .179 career attacker, so her .590 clip is a vast improvement. Also, last year, she tallied just 86 kills in 34 matches (2.5 per match) while she has 37 through four matches (3.7 per match) this season.
The Volunteers were picked to win the SEC by the league's coaches in the preseason and rightfully so after winning the league with a 19-1 overall record last season. Tennessee is a big, strong team that is led by junior outside hitter Kelsey Robinson, who is arguably the top outside hitter in the nation. Last year, Robinson was the SEC Player of the Year and a second-team All-American. This year, Robinson is averaging 5.00 kills per set and 5.80 per set. But she is jus the first of a three-headed monster that is the Tennessee offense. Leslie Cikra, the defending SEC Player of the Week, averages 3.14 kills per set on .345 hitting while Tiffany Baker averages 2.94 kills per set on .266 hitting. Cikra also leads the team in blocks with 34. The offense is quarterbacked by Mary Pollmiller, who averages 10.63 assists per set while the dig leader is Ellen Mullins, the starting libero, with 133. Robinson is also a gifted back-row player as she ranks second on the team with 114 digs.
Mizzou and Valparaiso have met twice in history with the most recent meeting coming in 2006. Mizzou won that meeting, 3-1, but fell the Crusaders in their only other meeting, 3-2, back in 1993.
Hayes With Double-Digit Digs in Nine of 10
The libero position was one of the biggest question marks for the Tigers heading into the 2012 season as they needed to replace the production of four-year starter and last year's libero Priscilla Armendariz. But sophomore Jade Hayes appears to have given the coaching staff plenty of reason for optimism moving forward. She pulled in double-digit dig totals in all seven matches so far this season, including a career-best 17 twice. She currently leads the team with 92 digs (4.18 per set) this season and has converted 94-percent of her service receptions.
Peltier Impresses at Lipscomb
One of the reasons why it was easier to move Wilson to the middle was the emergence of freshman Regan Peltier last weekend. Peltier had 23 kills on .352 hitting last weekend over the three matches and was very impressive on the block as well, posting five in the three matches. She earned her first career start in place of an injured Taylor Simpson against Houston and posted 12 kills on 18 errorless attacks, good for a team-best .667 attack percentage this season. She came back and posted seven kills on .429 hitting at Lipscomb and closed her tournament with four kills against Appalachian State.
Tigers Picked Fourth in SEC East
The Tigers, in the their first SEC Preseason Poll, were picked to finish fourth in the Eastern Division by the league's coaches. The loaded SEC East features league favorite Tennessee, Kentucky and Florida, all of which rank ahead of Mizzou. The Gators narrowly edged the Tigers in the poll for third place. The Tigers received 37 votes in the poll while Tennessee (12), UK (30) and Florida (35) edged the Tigers.
Kreklow, Henning Land on All-SEC Preseason Team
The Mizzou volleyball program may be new to the Southeastern Conference, but it has already earned the respect of its peers as the Tigers placed two student-athletes on the Preseason All-SEC Team, which was released on Aug. 7. Juniors Lisa Henning and Molly Kreklow were named to the nine-person All-SEC Preseason Team. Mizzou joined Kentucky and league-favorite Tennessee as the only teams to place two players on the All-SEC Preseason Team. Henning is fifth among active SEC players with 789 kills in her career.
Kreklows Participate in USA Volleyball A-2 Program Over the Summer
Junior Molly Kreklow and Mizzou head coach Wayne Kreklow spent 10 days during the summer in Columbus, Ohio, for the USA Volleyball A-2 Program - Molly as a player and Wayne as a coach, albeit of different teams. Wayne coached the Blue Team to a perfect 3-0 record in pool play, but his team lost a semifinal matchup, dropping it to the third-place match, which it won, 3-2 (25-20, 22-25, 25-18, 23-25, 15-11) over Molly's Red Team.
Little, O'Brien Play Together in Italy, Croatia
Sophomores Whitney Little and Katie O'Brien played with the USA Development/Bring-It Promotions tour in Italy and Croatia this summer. The Tiger duo played with some of the nation's most talented underclassmen over the week-long tour and their team played in the European Global Challenge. It marks the third straight season that Mizzou has had a student-athlete play in the program. Former Tiger Julianna Klein played in Brazil prior to the 2010 season while current Tiger junior Lisa Henning played in China prior to the 2011 season.
Henning First Tiger to Lead Big 12 in Kills Per Set, Points Per Set
Sophomore Lisa Henning was a unanimous selection to the All-Big 12 First Team last season and an AVCA All-American Third Team selection, becoming the first Tiger underclassman to be named to the All-America teams. Henning led the Big 12 in kills per set (4.65) and points per set (5.16) in league play, becoming the first Tiger to ever accomplish such a feat. She also posted the Big 12's top four point performances in league play and the top two kills performances. She gives Mizzou a pair of unanimous All-Big 12 picks in the last two years after Paola Ampudia earned a spot on the 2010 team.
Tigers Land Heralded Recruit Taylor Simpson
The Tigers landed a huge commit in the offseason as sophomore Taylor Simpson transferred to Mizzou. Most recently, Simpson played at the University of Nebraska but had transferred to Florida State this summer before committing to Mizzou. She is eligible to play immediately in 2012 and will give the Tigers another solid hitter at the net. She was rated the No. 9 recruit nationally by PrepVolleyball.com before committing to Nebraska in 2010. She is the highest-ranked recruit in program history.
Connection for Hayes and Simpson
Although Taylor Simpson will have to adapt to playing with a new team this season, the transition will be made a little bit easier thanks to a former teammate that is on the Tiger roster. Defensive specialist Jade Hayes played with Simpson on the USAVB Youth Olympic Team in 2010. The duo led Team USA to a Silver Medal in Singapore.
Mizzou has eclipsed the 20-win mark in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2004 and 2005. In 2010, Mizzou won 22 matches en-route to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 and last year the Tigers had 21 wins, showing the stability of the program under the direction of Wayne and Susan Kreklow.
Tigers Coming off of Second-Consecutive NCAA Tournament and 10th in 12 Seasons
The Tigers finished last season in somewhat of an improbable spot despite having nine underclassmen on a roster of 11, including seven freshmen. But that didn't stop the talented bunch from qualifying for the NCAA Tournament, marking the second straight appearance and the 10th time in the last 12 seasons, all coming under Wayne and Susan Kreklow.
An Experienced Youthful Group
It is a well known fact that Mizzou was the youngest team (% of underclassmen) to qualify for the NCAA Tournament last season, but heading into 2012, the Tigers boast a roster that is comprised of 10 underclassmen and two juniors, making them the youngest team in the SEC. In fact, Mizzou's roster is 83-percent underclassmen and it is the only SEC roster that does not have a senior. Mississippi State is the next-youngest team in the league as it is comprised of 76.9-percent underclassmen. What is impressive about the Tigers' youth is that they are a very experienced group as well as seven of the 10 underclassmen are sophomores and helped guide Mizzou to the NCAA Tournament as freshmen last year.
Henning Breaks School Record
Staying on the topic of Lisa Henning, she broke the school record with 523 kills last season and became just the third Tiger in program history to eclipse the 500-kill mark in a single season. What is even more remarkable about Henning is that she had almost 400 attacks than the next-best Tiger last year but still hit .246 on the season.
Kreklow Keeps Digging
Sophomore setter Molly Kreklow broke the Mizzou single season record for digs by a setter in the rally scoring era with her 307 last season. Lei Wang-Francisco held the previous mark with 284 in 2007. The all-time record for digs by a setter in a single season is 334 by Gwen Mullens in 1994, but that was pre-rally scoring.
Wilson Nets 300 Kills
Freshman outside hitter Emily Wilson had 320 kills last season and is the first Tiger freshman since 2006 to break the 300-kill mark in a single season. Her 320 kills this season are the fourth most ever by a Tiger freshman and the second-best total in the rally scoring era. Yvette Buhlig holds the freshman record with 361 back in 1988 while Weiwen Wang (343, 2007) is the only freshman to rank ahead of Wilson during the rally scoring era. She was an All-Big 12 Freshman Team selection in 2011.
Big Crowds at Home
Mizzou finished the regular season ranked 13th in average home attendance at 2,298 fans per match. That mark also ranked the Tigers second in the Big 12 behind only league champion Texas. In all, 25,279 fans attended Tiger home matches, helping the Tigers to a 10-3 mark inside the Hearnes Center last season.
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 10 NCAA Tournaments since 2000. The Tigers were on that average last year with 21 wins and a berth to the NCAA Tournament.
Brimmage Returns as Volunteer Assistant Coach
After a very successful career as a middle hitter at Mizzou, Brittney Brimmage returns to Mizzou to be a volunteer assistant coach with the team in 2012. She will primarily serve as a practice player on the Tiger scout team, giving the Tigers a great middle hitter to compete against in practice every day. Brimmage was a preseason All-Big 12 pick and was twice recognized as a member of the COBRA Magazine All-National Team, recognizing the top African-American players in the nation.
Tigers On Television
The Mizzou volleyball program will be televised nationally four times, including a program-high three times on ESPNU this season. In all, the Tigers have five scheduled televised matches that will be seen throughout the state of Missouri this season. Below are the television dates for the Tigers.
Sept. 12 vs. Tennessee - ESPNU
Oct. 14 vs. Mississippi State - ESPNU
Oct. 19 at Ole Miss - SportSouth
Oct. 24 - at Georgia - ESPNU
Nov. 2 - vs. South Carolina - Mizzou Sports Network
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. All broadcasts can be accessed at MUTigers.tv.
Mizzou will continue SEC play on Sunday as it welcomes Ole Miss to the Hearnes Center for a 1:30 p.m. tilt. For all the latest on Mizzou volleyball team, stay tuned to MUTigers.com and follow the team on twitter @MU_Volleyball.