The Mizzou volleyball team fell, 3-1 (19-25, 25-21, 19-25, 22-25), in the NCAA Tournament regional semifinal to the number 12 seed Duke Blue Devils inside Rec Hall at Penn State on Friday. The loss eliminates the Tigers from the NCAA Tournament and ends their season.
Senior outside hitter Paola Ampudia led Mizzou with 21 kills in the match, good for her eighth 20-kill performance this season. She also pulled in 10 digs for her 13th double-double of the season.
Duke’s serving kept the Tigers out of system most of the night while the Duke offense was in rhythm throughout the match. In fact, Duke hit .283 with 63 kills in the match while limiting Mizzou to just .199 hitting and 52 kills. Duke also pulled in 75 digs to the Tigers’ 54, a big reason why Mizzou was outhit in the match.
Aside from Ampudia’s match-high 21 kills, the Tigers also got good performances from Julianna Klein, who posted 12 kills, and freshman setter Molly Kreklow, who spread 47 assists on 52 Tiger kills. Senior libero Caitlyn Vann, who came into the match as the NCAA Tournament leader with 59 digs, tallied 16 in the match to lead the Tigers.
In all, Mizzou’s block was strong as it registered 12 in the match, one off of its season-best, while finishing with a season-best 22 block assists. Brittney Brimmage led Mizzou with seven blocks while adding six kills on .294 hitting while Lisa Henning added six blocks and six kills as well.
Senior Catie Wilson closed her career with five kills on 10 errorless attacks as she finishes her career as the seventh-most efficient hitter in program history. She also pitched in three blocks. Weiwen Wang also played in her final match as a Tiger and tallied two kills with one block assist in just two sets.
Mizzou came out sluggish in the first set and despite getting the first kill from Klein, Mizzou struggled with its attack, falling behind 7-2 in the early in the set.
Mizzou called timeout at that point and made a rally, but that five-point cushion that Mizzou gave up turned out to be a decisive run as Duke claimed the first frame, 25-19.
The Tigers shored up their defense and ran out to a 15-10 lead at the media timeout in the second set. Duke rattled off the next three points following the timeout, but a block from Ampudia and Wilson ended that run.
But Duke rallied to tie the score at 16, forcing a Mizzou timeout. Following the stoppage, the Tigers responded, winning four of the next five to take a 20-17 lead following a savvy tip shot from Henning. That was all the Tigers needed to take the second set, 25-21 after a left-side kill from Ampudia, her 12th of the match.
Duke took the first five points of the third, but Ampudia and Brimmage combined for a block on the right side to put the Tigers on the board. Mizzou rallied to cut the lead to as little as 9-7, but Duke tallied the next five points to double up Mizzou, 14-7.
Mizzou made a slight rally again, but couldn’t overcome the Blue Devils, who claimed the set, 25-19. Mizzou hit just .053 in the set with seven kills and five errors, but the block kept the Tigers in it as they had six in the frame.
Mizzou fell behind 5-1 in the fourth and rallied to as close as 11-9 in the early going, but Duke extended its lead back to five at 15-10 at the half-way point of the set. But that lead was all Duke needed to pull away from the Tigers as it claimed the set, 25-22, despite a late rally from the Tigers.
Despite the loss, the Tigers’ 22 wins this season are their most since 2005 and the regional semifinal appearance is the deepest that the Tigers have advanced in the tournament since 2005 as well.