Wayne Kreklow and the Tigers will hit the road for their first SEC road trip this weekend.
Sept. 19, 2012
Mizzou Volleyball (10-2, 2-0 SEC) at #13 Florida (8-2, 02-0 SEC), LSU (4-7, 0-2 LSU)
Date: Sept. 21, 23
Time: 6 p.m. (CT), 1 p.m. (CT)
Location: Gainesville, Fla., Baton Rouge, La.
Live Stream: MizzouNetwork.com
Twitter Updates: @MU_Volleyball
What's Inside? - A Quick Look at the Notes
The Tigers hit the road for the first time in SEC play as they head to No. 13 Florida Friday and LSU on Sunday.
Mizzou is one of four SEC teams that are 2-0 in league play. One of the other three is Friday's opponent, Florida. Friday's match with Florida is a rematch of last year's NCAA Tournament opening round, which UF won, 3-1.
Mizzou is winless all-time against this weekend's foes at 0-3 (0-1 vs. Florida and 0-2 vs. LSU).
Mizzou is off to its first 2-0 start in league play since 2005. That year, Mizzou advanced to the Elite Eight.
Mizzou has lost an SEC-low nine sets this season, despite dropping two matches.
The Tigers are 10th nationally in hitting (.306) while Whitney Little ranks 13th nationally in hitting (.440).
Over the last six sets, Mizzou is hitting .327 with 14.33 kps and limiting opponents to just .160 hitting and 12 kps.
Mizzou leads the SEC in bps (3.00) during league play. Mizzou is averaging 2.68 bps over the last four matches.
Whitney Little is averaging 1.71 blocks over the last four and is second in the SEC in league play (1.50 bps).
Over he last five matches, Little has 42 kills on .442 hitting as well, emerging as the Tigers' No. 2 option.
Lisa Henning hit .299 with 39 kills (4.88 per set) last week while averaging 2.50 digs per set.
Henning is No. 5 on the active kill leaders list in the SEC w/ 973. She is the top junior on the list.
Setter Molly Kreklow is second in the SEC during league play, averaging 11.50 assists per set.
In her three years as a Tiger setter, Kreklow has guided the team to a .242 attack clip and 13.48 kills per set.
The team's .242 through her two-plus seasons is the second-best career mark for four-year Tiger setters.
The Tigers have at least four blocks in all 12 matches this season and have six blocks in 10 of 12 contests.
Mizzou is holding teams to just .164 hitting this year. Mizzou has not held a team to below .200 in a season since 2005.
Sarah Meister had a career-best 23 digs in her first career start at libero against Tennessee Wednesday.
Meister is averaging 4.62 digs per set and has a .975 service reception mark since switching to libero.
Before moving to libero, Meister was averaging just 1.85 digs per set and had just a .941 serve receive mark.
Tigers Hit the Road
The first week of SEC play could not have gone much better for the Mizzou volleyball team as it went 2-0 with wins over defending SEC Champion Tennessee and Ole Miss at the Hearnes Center last week. But this week, another set of tests await the Tigers as they travel to No. 13 Florida on Friday and LSU, which was picked to win the SEC West, on Sunday. It will mark the first week of SEC travel for the Tigers. Mizzou and Florida will meet at 6 p.m. (CT) while the clash of Tigers will begin at 1 p.m. (CT) on Sunday in Baton Rouge.
Tigers Off to Fast Start
After rallying to defeat the 17th-ranked Vols and sweeping Ole Miss on Sunday, the Mizzou volleyball team is out to a 2-0 start in league play, marking the first time Mizzou has started conference play 2-0 since 2005. The 2005 season was arguably the best in program history as the Tigers advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight and posted a 25-5 overall record. The 2-0 start is even more impressive considering that the Tigers have started a new era as 2012 marks the Tigers' inaugural SEC season.
Tigers Seek Revenge
Friday's match with the 13th-ranked Gators in Gainesville is a rematch of the Mizzou's first-round NCAA Tournament match from a season ago. The Tigers won the first set of that match, 25-23, but then lost the next three as Florida ended Mizzou's season. Mizzou was very one-dimensional in that match as Lisa Henning finished with a team-best 16 kills on .094 hitting while not other Tiger had more than eight kills.
Tigers One of Four Unbeatens in League Play
Heading into the weekend, Mizzou is one of four unbeatens left in SEC play at 2-0. The others are Friday's opponent Florida, South Carolina and former Big 12 member Texas A&M. Three of the four unbeatens reside in the East Division of the SEC as Texas A&M is the only unbeaten remaining in the West. Another note, the Tigers have lost an SEC-low nine sets heading into action this weekend.
Mizzou 10th Nationally in Team Hitting
An area that Mizzou has excelled this season has been offensive efficiency as it comes into the weekend hitting .306 as a unit, the 10th-best mark in the nation. That mark is third in the SEC as the Tigers will play the fourth-best hitting team in the nation at Florida on Friday as the Gators check in at .327. The major difference between Mizzou and Florida spastically is opponent hitting. The Tigers are limiting opponents to just .164 hitting while Florida has allowed opponents to hit .200, the 10th-best mark in the SEC.
Individually, Whitney Little leads the way for the Tigers as she is hitting .440, the 13th-best mark in the NCAA this season and the second-best mark in the SEC, trailing only Florida's Tangerine Wiggs (.500).
Tigers Dominant Over Last Six Sets
One Sept. 12, Mizzou went into intermission trailing Tennessee, 0-2, in its inaugural SEC match. Since that point, Mizzou has been on a tear, posting a .327 attack percentage while averaging 14.33 kills per set en-route to six-straight set wins and two match wins - one over Tennessee and the other over Ole Miss in straight sets. The defense has been great in that span as well, limiting opponents to just .160 hitting and 12 kills per set while the Tigers are averaging 3.33 blocks per set in that span.
Tigers Lead SEC in Blocking During League Play
It has been no secret that the 2012 Tigers have been blocking that any Tiger team in recent memory and the last few matches are evidence of that. In fact, Mizzou is leading the SEC with 3.00 blocks per set in league matches (thanks in large part to an 18-block outing against Tennessee on Sept. 12) while Mizzou is averaging 2.68 blocks per set over the last four matches. Whitney Little is averaging 1.71 blocks over the last four and is second in the SEC in league play (1.50 bps).
In all this season, Mizzou is averaging 2.50 blocks per set, well ahead of their 2.30 blocks per set from a season ago. In fact, Mizzou has not averaged better than 2.50 blocks per set since 2007 (Mizzou averaged 2.74 that season) and that is when sets were still played to 30 points rather than the 25-point format that is used now.
Little Plays Big Over the Last Four
All season, the Tigers have needed another attacker to step up and take pressure off of All-American Lisa Henning, who is currently second in the SEC in kills per set and points per set. But the Tigers have seemed to find that No. 2 option as of late as Whitney Little has emerged as a key option at the middle hitter position. In fact, over her last four matches, Little has 42 kills on .442 hitting. She had a career-best match on Sunday against Ole Miss in which she hit a career-best .722 with 13 kills on 18 errorless attacks. The 13 kills in that outing were just one off of a career-best.
Henning Has Huge Week
Although Whitney Little continued her breakout as of late last week, the key player for the Tigers was junior All-American Lisa Henning. Henning was arguably the top attacker in the league last week as she averaged 4.88 kills per set (39 over eight sets) on .299 hitting while pulling in 2.50 digs per set. She was sensational in the Tigers' five-set comeback win over No. 17 Tennessee as she finished with 26 kills on .292 hitting while adding 11 digs, good for her second double-double of the season. The 26 kills in that match were just one off of her career-high. It is worth noting that Henning was sensational during the Tigers' comeback from down 0-2 to the defending SEC Champions as she had 18 kills on .385 hitting in the final three sets of that match. She also out-dueled defending SEC Player of the Year Kelsey Robinson, who finished the match with 23 kills on just .175 hitting.
Little Hosts Block Party
Sophomore middle hitter Whitney Little has sparked a very rowdy block party for the Tigers as of late as she has been arguably the SEC's top blocker over the last two weeks. In fact, over her last four matches, Little has eclipsed the 10-block mark in two of those matches and is averaging 1.78 blocks per set in that span. In fact, her two matches with 10+ digs make her just the fourth Tiger to ever post two 10-block matches in a career. She was a big reason why Mizzou racked up their most blocks since 2009 against Tennessee on Wednesday.
She also etched her name into the Mizzou record books against Morehead State in that span 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.
More on the Block
So far this season, Mizzou's block has been very good. In fact, the Tigers have posted at least four blocks in every match this season and have at least six blocks in 10 of 12 matches. The Tigers posted a season-best 18 blocks in the comeback win over Tennessee, marking the first time since 2009 that the Tigers have posted that many blocks.
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 month of play. In addition to guiding the team to a .306 attack percentage, Kreklow also proved to be a formidable attacker, posting 41 kills on just 74 attacks with just five errors, good for a .486 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 .486 clip is a vast improvement. Also, last year, she tallied just 86 kills in 34 matches (2.5 per match) while she has 41 through 12 matches (3.5 per match) this season.
Kreklow Nearly Nets Triple-Double
Junior setter Molly Kreklow was the only setter selected to the Preseason All-SEC Team this year and she is beginning to show why during league play. In fact, Kreklow is averaging 11.50 assists per set in league play, good for the second-best mark in the SEC this season.
A Look at Kreklow Historically
Through her two-plus seasons at Mizzou, Kreklow has guided the team to a .242 attack percentage and 13.48 kills per set. If you average out the rest of the year at the current pace the Tigers are attacking at right now, Kreklow will have guided Mizzou to a .252 attack percentage in her three seasons. That is the second-best mark for any three-year Tiger setter in program history, trailing only Lindsey Hunter, who guided Mizzou to a .263 attack clip in her first three seasons at Mizzou (2002-04).
Improved Defense Sparks Tigers
The primary reason for the Tigers' 7-1 record over the last eight 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 eight matches, Mizzou has climbed those rankings. Below is a look at the improvement.
First Four Matches (SEC Rank)
Opponent Hitting - .211 (11th)
Digs per set - 13.69 (13th)
Blocks ser set - 1.92 (10th)
Next Eight Matches (Current SEC Rank)
Opponent Hitting - .144 (4th)
Digs per set - 15.00 (10th)
Blocks per set - 2.77 (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 .164 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 nine of 12 matches, winning eight of those, and has held teams to under .200 hitting in seven of the last eight 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 Libero Change
Before the match with No. 17 Tennessee, Mizzou head coach Wayne Kreklow made a lineup change as he moved sophomore Sarah Meister to the starting libero position, replacing Jade Hayes. The move came after Hayes had pulled in double-digit digs in nine of the Tigers' first 10 matches. But Meister has made an immediate impact since throwing on the opposite-colored jersey, averaging 4.62 digs per set while posting a team-best .975 service reception percentage in that span (39 of 40). Before the change, Meister was averaging just 1.85 digs per set and a .941 serve receive mark. In fact, in her first match as libero, Meister corralled a career-best 23 digs against Tennessee and converted all 28 of her service receptions in the match. She followed that with a three-set career-best total 14 digs against Ole Miss.
Florida comes into Friday's match at No. 13 nationally and the Gators were picked to finish third in the SEC East, behind Tennessee and Kentucky while finishing just ahead of the Tigers in the preseason poll. The Gators are led by a balanced attack as four players average at least two kills a set, all on better than .300 hitting. Necomer Ziva Recek leads the way with 135 kills on .357 hitting while Chloe Mann is second with 119 kills on .380 hitting. Tangerine Wiggs leads the team with a .500 hitting percentage while setter Taylor Braueis leads the team in assists at 11.41 per set. Taylor Unroe leads the team in digs at 4.43 per set.
The Tigers and Gators have met just once in history and that came in last year's NCAA Tournament opening round with the Gators taking a 3-1 win.
LSU, despite sitting at 4-7 overall and 0-2 in league play, was the predicted champion in the SEC West by the league's coaches in the preseason. But they have struggled so far, hitting just .176 as a team while allowing opponents to hit .224. It is worth noting that four of LSU's seven losses have come to top-20 teams while two additional losses came against SEC competition on the road. Desiree Elliott leads the team, averaging 3.39 kills per set on .279 hitting while Madie Jones is averaging 3.08 kills per set on .222 hitting. Those are the only two regular Tiger hitters hitting better than .200. Meghan Mannari leads the team in digs, averaging 4.18 per set while Elliott leads the team in blocks with 0.89/set.
Mizzou and LSU have met twice back in the 1980s with LSU taking both meetings.
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 53 wins in her two-plus seasons.
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. At Morehead State, 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 (6,097) 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 with 184 kills this season, pushing her total to 973 over her two-plus seasons. Vander Kooi holds the record for kills in a Tigers' first three seasons with 1,040. Henning needs just 67 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 - 789, 973 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 973 career kills are fifth among active SEC players and tops among SEC juniors, just ahead of Tennessee's Kelsy Robinson (948). 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 1,521. Henning is currently second in the SEC in kills per set (4.49) and points per set (5.12). Remember, Henning was the first ever Tiger to leads the Big 12 in kills per set and points per set a season ago and broke the school record with 523 kills.
More on the Tiger Junior Class
With 43 wins through their first two seasons, the Mizzou junior class (Kreklow, Henning) 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 two wins last week, the class now has 53 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
2002-05 - 90 wins
2002-04 - 89 wins
1982-85 - 84 wins
Mizzou Junior Class - 53 wins
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.
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.
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.
Big Crowds at Home
So far this season, the Hearnes Center has proved to once again be one of the toughest places to play in the country as Mizzou is 5-1 inside the confines of their home arena. In fact, Mizzou is 1-1 against top-25 teams as well with its only loss coming to No. 23 Michigan. So far, Mizzou is averaging 2,264 fans per match this season.
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
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 second year as the team's play-by-play announcer. Brittney Brimmage will provide analysis. Visit MUTigers.tv for broadcasts.
Mizzou will return home for another key SEC weekend as Texas A&M and Georgia will make their way to the Hearnes Center. Mizzou will play the Aggies on Sept. 28 at 6:30 p.m. while they will play Georgia at 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 30.
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