The Missouri Tiger volleyball team was in a position they’ve never experienced and handled it with ease. Mizzou, which earned its first top-ten ranking by checking in at number ten in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll this week, opened Big 12 play with a 3-0 (30-20, 20-24, 30-16) victory over Iowa St. at the Hearnes Center Wednesday night.
The first two games proved to be tight for the Tigers, at least early on. In game one, the Cyclones were tied with the Tigers 11-11 at one point and in game two they were tied 12-12.
But the third and final game proved to be a different story. MU jumped out to a 5-0 lead and eventually had an 8-1 advantage before cruising to the win. A 13-7 lead was their slimmest margin the rest of the way.
Despite the relatively easy third game, head coach Wayne Kreklow was impressed with the Cyclones.
“Iowa State’s gonna beat some people at home. They’re really playing pretty well. They’re doing some things a lot better than they have in the past,” Kreklow said. “I could see them knocking some people off so it was good for us to be able to get them here.”
Abbie Booth had a career-high six aces, while Shen Danru and Nicole Wilson had 12 kills apiece, as Mizzou improved to 7-0 on the season and 1-0 in the Big 12.
Even though MU is now in the top ten, Kreklow hopes his team keeps its newfound national attention in perspective.
“We’re the same people that were three days ago or two weeks ago,” said Kreklow. “Nothing’s changed, other than we’ve beaten some teams so all of the sudden, now, we’ve got this magical ranking that says that we’re supposed to be pretty good.”
There was something, other than their play, that stood out on the court of the Hearnes Center Wednesday night. Smiles and laughter. Even during the tense moments of the first two games it was hard to tell whether or not MU felt any pressure at all. While some coaches would rather see their team more serious, that’s not what Kreklow wants to see from his team.
“There’s a fine line between being loose and playing (with a) reckless abandon and being silly and being goofy,” said Kreklow. “What we’re truly trying to get them to focus on is just being able to enjoy what they’re doing. “Not a lot of people have a chance to do this and it should be something that’s fun rather than tense.”
MU now hits the road to face 15th-ranked Texas A&M in College Station on Friday.