Volleyball Headed to Tennessee, Alabama

<i>Whitney Little is the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Week.</i>

Whitney Little is the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Week.

Oct. 3, 2012

Mizzou Volleyball (12-4, 4-2 SEC) at Tennessee (9-5, 2-3 SEC), Alabama (13-5, 2-2 SEC)
Date: Oct. 5, 7
Time: 6 p.m. (CT), 1:30 p.m. (CT)
Location: Knoxville, Tenn., Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Live Stream: MizzouNetwork.com
Twitter Updates: @MU_Volleyball
Game Notes: Weekend Notes Get Acrobat Reader

What's Inside? - A Quick Look at the Notes
• Mizzou will hit the road this weekend as the Tigers will play six of their next seven contests on the road.
• Mizzou will play Tennessee at 6 p.m. on Friday in a rematch of an epic five-setter in Columbia earlier this year.
• Mizzou is one of four SEC teams with at least four league wins, joining Florida, Arkansas and Texas A&M.
• The Tigers debuted at No. 49 in the first official NCAA RPI.
• The Tigers are second in the SEC in hitting (17th nationally at .282) and lead the SEC in blocks (2.81 per set).
• Mizzou is also averaging a league-best 3.45 blocks per set in SEC matches and 3.17 over the last eight matches.
• The Tigers have posted at least 10 blocks in seven of 16 matches and at least nine in nine matches.
Whitney Little is the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Week, her third SEC weekly honor this season.
• Little leads the SEC in blocks per set (1.49) in all matches and in SEC matches (2.00).
• Little has four 10-block matches in her last eight. The four 10-block matches is a Mizzou career and season record.
• Little has a pair of block-kill double-doubles in 2012. Before that, the last block-kill double-double was in `07.
• Little is 11th nationally in hitting (.423), 11th nationally in bps (1.49) and third in solo blocks (16).
Lisa Henning became the 11th player in program history to go over 1,000 kills last weekend.
• She is the second-fastest Tiger to reach 1,000 kills, trailing on Shen Danru.
• Henning is No. 5 on the active kill leaders list in the SEC w/ 1,027. She is the top junior on the list.
• Setter Molly Kreklow is third in the SEC in assists per set in all matches (10.75) and SEC play (10.77).
• In her three years as a Tiger setter, Kreklow has guided the team to a .241 attack clip and 13.48 kills per set.
• The team's .241 clip through her two-plus seasons is the second-best career mark for four-year Tiger setters.
• To put it into perspective, Kreklow has assisted on 82.5-percent of Mizzou's kills since 2010.
• Mizzou is holding teams to just .178 hitting this year. Mizzou has not held a team to below .200 in a season since 2005.
Sarah Meister has gone over 20 digs in three of six matches since switching to libero.
• Meister is averaging 4.68 digs per set since switching to libero, a mark that ranks her fifth in the SEC.
• Before moving to libero, Meister was averaging just 1.85 digs per set and had just a .941 serve receive mark.

Tigers Return to the Road For Busy October
As one of four SEC teams with four conference wins, the Mizzou volleyball team (12-4, 4-2 SEC) will hit the road this weekend for a pivotal road trip that could help the Tigers keep pace with SEC East leader Florida, which is 5-0 in league play. The Tigers will play Tennessee in Knoxville at 6 p.m. (CT) on Friday and then the Tigers will head to Tuscaloosa to play Alabama on Sunday to play the Tide at 12:30 p.m. (CT). Of course Friday's matchup with the Lady Vols is a rematch of the Tigers' five-set comeback in the SEC opener at the Hearnes Center and will be a crucial SEC East showdown. Six of the Tigers' next seven matches are on the road.

Mount Whitney
As the Tigers enter the weekend, one thing is evident: the Tigers are the best blocking team in the SEC statistically and a lot of that has to do with the blocking of sophomore middle Whitney Little. The sophomore rewrote the record books on Sunday against Georgia, posting her fourth 10-block match in her last eight. That is notable because the four 10-block matches is the Mizzou school record for 10-block matches in a career and a single season - keep in mind she did all of that in span of eight matches as sophomore. In all, Little leads the SEC in blocking in all matches at 1.49 per set and her numbers are even better with 2.00 block per set. What is even more impressive is that Little is second in the SEC in hitting .423 and is ninth in points per set in SEC play at 4.02. Little was named SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Week for the second time this season.

More on Little Playing Big
Of course it is worth noting that Whitney Little's four 10-block performances are the top four marks in SEC play this season as she is the only player in the SEC with a 10-or-more block performance in 2012. To put Little's accomplishments into perspective, Mizzou had just 14 10-bock performances in school history before this season. Mizzou also had just three during the rally scoring era and none during the 25-point set era so Little's four 10-block performances are somewhat unprecedented.

Last Time Out
The Mizzou volleyball team split a pair of SEC matches last weekend as it fell to Texas A&M, 3-1, on Friday before rallying to defeat Georgia, 3-0, on Sunday. The Tigers were led last weekend by junior All-American Lisa Henning who had 20 kills on .282 hitting while averaging 5.57 points per set on the weekend, highlighted by her third 20-kill performance of the season with 20 against Texas A&M. She also had 12 kills on .500 hitting in the sweep of Georgia. Libero Sarah Meister also posted more than 20 digs against Texas A&M with 22, marking the third time since switching to libero that she has gone over 20 digs in a match. Against Georgia, Mizzou limited the Bulldogs to just .030 hitting, their best over a conference opponent during the rally scoring era.

Tigers on Historic Block Pace
So far this season, Mizzou is rewriting the record book with one of its best blocking teams in recent memory. In fact, the Tigers are averaging 2.81 blocks per set, a mark that if the season were to end today, would rank as the second-best single-season mark in school history and it would be the best mark in the 25-point set era. The Tigers are also on pace for 299 total blocks this season through the regular season, so should the Tigers qualify for the postseason, they could become just the fifth Tiger team to post more than 300 blocks in a season and the first during the 25-point set era.

Tigers Lead SEC in Blocking During League Play
It has been no secret that the 2012 Tigers have been blocking better than any Tiger team in recent memory and the last few matches are evidence of that. In fact, Mizzou is leading the SEC with 3.45 blocks per set in league matches (thanks in large part to going over 10.0 blocks in five of six league matches) while Mizzou is averaging 3.17 blocks per set over the last eight matches. Whitney Little is averaging 2.00 blocks over the last eight and is leading the SEC during league play (2.00 bps). In all this season, Mizzou is averaging an SEC-best 2.81 blocks per set, well ahead of its 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. That 2.81 mark would be the second-best single season mark in program history and the best in the 25-point set era.

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 14 of 16 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. Mizzou has been over 10 blocks in seven of 16 matches and at least nine in nine of 16 matches this season.

Little Making History
Aside from being named SEC Defensive Player of the Week on Monday, Whitney Little has rewritten the Mizzou record books with her blocking and offensive efficiency. Below are a few notables on Little.

    • Little is tied for third nationally in solo blocks with 16 on the season
    • Little is 11th nationally in hitting (.423) and 11th in blocks per set (1.49)
    • She has four 10-block matches in her last eight, matching the school record for career and season 10-block matches
    • Little has two block-kills doubles this season; the last block-kill double-double for MU was back in `07
    • Little matched the rally scoring school record with five solo blocks at Florida
    • Little sits atop the all-time Mizzou career records in blocks per set (1.20) and is second in hitting (.329)
    • Little is on pace to shatter her own single season blocking record (138) as she is on pace for more than 160 blocks
    • Little owns the SEC's top four blocking marks this season and leads the SEC in blocking
Transformation For Little
Although Whitney Little has ascended to No. 11 nationally in blocks per set, her numbers this season may not reflect how good she has been as of late after she got off to a slow start (by her standards) blocking this season. In fact, through her first seven matches, Little was averaging just 0.86 blocks per set with 19 total blocks (four solo, 15 assists) in that span. But since that time, Little has been on a role, averaging 1.94 blocks per set in her last nine.

Official RPI Rankings Released
The NCAA released its official RPI rankings on Monday and the Tigers found themselves ranked No. 49 in the rankings as they are one of seven SEC teams ranked in the RPI top 50. That bodes well for the league moving forward as it will look to secure multiple NCAA Tournament berths. Last year, the Tigers were an at-large selection to the NCAA Tournament with an RPI of 32. Below are a look at the SEC rankings in the NCAA RPI.

    • Arkansas - 16 (Tigers play once)
    • Kentucky - 17 (Tigers play twice)
    • Texas A&M - 22 (Tigers play twice; one remaining match)
    • Florida - 24 (Tigers play twice; one remaining match)
    • Tennessee - 27(Tigers play twice; one remaining match)
    • Auburn - 39 (Tigers play once)
    • Mizzou 49

Henning Joins 1,000 Kill Club
Against Texas A&M, Tiger junior Lisa Henning became the 11th Tiger to join the 1,000-kill club as she posted her third 20-kill effort of the season. Henning now 1,027 kills in her two-plus seasons as a Tiger as she is just 49 kills from matching Lisa Morris (1,076 kills from 1999-2002). She is on pace to finish the season with 1,265 kills, which would place her seventh all-time at Mizzou with an entire senior season to go. In fact, should she finish the season with 1,265 kills, she would be just 393 kills behind all-time leader Shen Danru (1,658 kills from 2002-05).

Henning Could Crack All-Time Top-10 in Attacks
Aside from teetering on the brink of the all-time top 10 in kills, Henning is also just 23 attacks shy of cracking the all-time top-10 in attacks. She currently has just 2,724 attacks in her career, just behind Naaron Branson who finished her four-year career with 2,747 career attacks.

Tigers Second in SEC, 17th Nationally in Hitting
Heading into the weekend, Mizzou ranks among the national elite in team hitting percentage at .282, ranking it second in the SEC and 17th nationally. Florida, which is atop the SEC East division, is the only SEC team that is hitting better than Mizzou. If the season ended today, the .282 clip would be the third-best attack clip in program history, trailing only the 2005 team (.299) and the 2000 team (.289).

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 this season. In addition to guiding the team to a .282 attack percentage, Kreklow also proved to be a formidable attacker, posting 59 kills on just 109 attacks with just 11 errors, good for a .440 clip. Kreklow entered the season as a .179 career attacker, so her .440 clip is a vast improvement.

A Look at Kreklow Historically
Through her two-plus seasons at Mizzou, Molly Kreklow has guided the team to a .241 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). She has assisted on nearly 83-percent of the Tigers' kills in her two-plus seasons.

Tigers Limiting Opponent Hitting This Season
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 .178 attack percentage, good for the fifth-best clip in the SEC this season. In fact, Mizzou has limited its opponents to under .200 hitting in 11 of 16 matches, winning 10 of those. The Tigers have not held their opponents under .200 hitting in a season since 2005.

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 4.68 digs per set, fifth-best in the SEC. Before the change, Meister was averaging just 1.85 digs per set and a .941 serve receive mark. She has posted at least 20 digs in three of her six matches as libero, including a career-best 27 at LSU and 23 in her first-ever start at libero against No. 17 Tennessee.

Scouting Tennessee
The Lady Vols were picked to win the SEC this season after returning nearly everyone from last year's 19-1 SEC team, but they have gotten off to a slow start in league play this season. In fact, Tennessee is just 9-5 overall and 2-3 in league play, including a five-set loss to Mizzou at the Hearnes Center in the SEC opener on ESPNU. The Lday Vols are of course led by All-American Kelsey Robinson, who leads the SEC in kills per set at 4.73. Tiffany Baker is also a formidable option at the net, averaging 2.89 kills per set.

Series Information
Mizzou leads the all-time series with Tennessee, 2-1, after the thrilling five-set comeback at Hearnes earlier this season. Aside from this year's meeting, the two previous contests were in 2005. Mizzou won a regular season match against the Vols that year before falling in the Elite Eight to Tennessee, denying Mizzou its first-ever Final Four.

Scouting Alabama
Alabama ran out to a 12-1 start this season but has struggled in SEC play, compiling just a 2-4 mark in league play. The Tide's wins in SEC play have come in straight sets over LSU and a four-set win against Ole Miss, both team which Mizzou has defeated this season. The Tide are paced by Kayla Fitterer, who is averaging 3.84 kills per set with 527 total attacks as she gets the majority of the balls. She is also hitting .275 on the season. Alabama struggles on the block, averaging just 1.67 per set as no player blocks more than 1.00 per set.

Series Information
Mizzou and the Tide have met just once and that meeting came in Wayne and Susan Kreklow's third year at the helm in 2002. Mizzou won that match, 3-1, at Alabama.

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 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 54 wins in her two-plus seasons.

Ms. 3,000
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. She has assisted on nearly 83-percent of the Tigers' kills since joining the team for the 2010 season.

Henning Top Junior in SEC
Looking deeper into Lisa Henning's numbers so far, her 1,027 career kills are fifth among active SEC players and tops among SEC juniors, just ahead of Tennessee's Kelsy Robinson. The four players ranked ahead of Henning on the list are all senior as Arkansas' Jasmine Norton leads all active SEC players in kills. 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 a win last week, the class now has 55 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 - 55 wins

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.

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 6-2 inside the confines of their home arena. In fact, Mizzou is 1-1 against top-25 teams as well with its only losses coming to No. 23 Michigan and Texas A&M, an RPI top-25 team. So far, Mizzou is averaging 2,219 fans per match this season, ranking it in the top 15 in the country.

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 second year as the team's play-by-play announcer. Brittney Brimmage will provide analysis. Visit MUTigers.tv for broadcasts.

Up Next
Mizzou will be back in action following almost a full week off, a week that will be much-needed with the Tigers' October schedule. The Tigers will play Mississippi State at home on Oct. 14 at noon before hitting the road for four straight road matches to close out October. For all the latest on Mizzou volleyball, stay tuned to MUTigers.com and follow the team on twitter @MU_Volleyball.



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