Mizzou Volleyball Rallies to Shock No. 17 Vols
COLUMBIA -- The Mizzou volleyball team rallied from down 0-2 and 20-15 in the third set against No. 17 Tennessee to defeat the Lady Vols, 3-2 (20-25, 14-25, 27-25, 25-21, 15-9), in its inaugural SEC match in front of a season-best 3,114 fans on ESPNU Wednesday night at the Hearnes Center. The win marked the first time that Mizzou has come back from down 0-2 since Sept. 26, 2009, when the Tigers did so against Texas A&M. The win moves Mizzou to 9-2 overall and 1-0 in SEC play while UT drops to 7-3 and 0-1 in SEC play.
"It was one of those matches that was very entertaining to watch and I'm glad our team found a way to pull it out," head coach Wayne Kreklow said. "After the second set, it was clear that we were pretty frustrated, but the effort and resiliency that they showed after intermission was great to see. Hats off to the crowd too; Hearnes is always one of the best atmospheres in college volleyball and I don't think we are able to rally without the support of our fans tonight."
The match was a tail of two halves. The Tigers hit just .173 with 20 kills in the first two sets while allowing Tennessee to come out and hit a blistering .338 with 34 kills. But following the intermission, Mizzou was much better defensively, limiting UT to just .144 hitting and 38 kills. Mizzou conversely was lights out offensively, hitting .307 with 39 kills. The Tigers had just four blocks in the first two sets but exploded for 14 over the final three frames for a season-best 18.0 in the match.
Junior Lisa Henning lived up to her All-America billing as she posted a match-high 26 kills on .292 hitting to lead the Tiger attack. She also added 11 digs to post her second double-double of the season. She was helped out offensively by sophomore outside hitter Taylor Simpson, who had 10 kills on .265 hitting while pitching in three solo blocks (four total). Mizzou's offense was as balanced as it has been all season, despite Henning finishing with a match-high 65 attacks. Freshman Regan Peltier was also very good, posting eight kills on just 22 swings while also adding three solo blocks, one of which came during the Tigers' rally from down 20-15 in the third set. Peltier also had the match-winning kill in the fifth set.
The Tiger middle hitters were also very good offensively. Reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Week Whitney Little posted seven kills and 10 blocks, marking the second time in three matches that she has posted double-digit blocks. Sophomore Emily Wilson was also very good, posting six kills on 11 errorless attacks.
Not to go unmentioned was the performance of Preseason All-SEC setter Molly Kreklow who posted her sixth double-double of the season with 52 assists and 16 digs while finishing just one block shy of a triple-double with nine. Defensively, the Tigers started a new libero on Wednesday as Sarah Meister donned the different-colored jersey. She was sensational as well, pulling in a career-best 23 digs while playing through pain in much of the fifth set. She also was perfect on 28 service receptions. Also notable for the Tigers defensive players was the performance of Niki Collier, who despite having just five digs, converted all 33 of her service reception chances.
Mizzou was run off the floor in the first two sets behind a dominant offensive attack from the Vols. In fact, Tennessee had 21 kills to account for their 25 points in the first as it ran away with the frame, 25-20. The second set was much worse for the Tigers as they hit just .062 as a team, allowing Tennessee to claim the set, 25-14, taking a 2-0 lead into the locker room at intermission.
The Tigers didn't' really begin to get things going until midway through the third set. In fact, Tennessee came within five points of winning the match at 20-15 after a kill from setter Mary Pollmiller. But Mizzou had a run left as it rallied off three straight kills - once from Peltier, one from Henning and one from Little to pull within two at 20-18. After a kill from Tennessee All-American Kelsey Robinson that put UT back up three, kills from Little and Peltier sandwiched around a Robinson error tied the score at 21-21. Then Robinson made a critical attack error to give Mizzou a 22-21 error.
Tennessee tried to fight back, but Mizzou kept its upper hand and eventually won the third, 27-25, after a quick attack in the middle from Wilson landed in the Vol back row after a long rally.
The Tigers took that momentum into the fourth set and opened up a 15-10 lead after a kill from Henning. But once again, Tennessee rallied to tie the score at 18-18 and 20-20. Tennessee's Tiffany Baker was then stuffed by Little and Kreklow to give Mizzou a lead and the two came back to stuff Baker again to give Mizzou a 22-20 lead. From there Mizzou got kills from Simpson and Hennning and an ace from Little to put the set away, 25-21.
That set up the drama in the fifth, but clearly Mizzou had captured all of the momentum and opened up a 7-1 lead and eventually held off Tennessee for a 15-9 win in the fifth, clinching the match on a kill from Peltier from the left side of the net.
Mizzou will be back in action on Sunday at 1:30 against Ole Miss at the Hearnes Center.