COLUMBIA — Time is running out for the Missouri volleyball team.
The unranked Tigers, on the bubble for an NCAA Tournament berth, took a three-game conference winning streak into their match Saturday against No. 8 Iowa State. But, as was the case when the teams met earlier this season, Iowa State swept Missouri in three games.
Missouri coach Wayne Kreklow joked after the game about the uncertainty surrounding the decision-making process of the NCAA selection committee, but said he thinks the depth of the conference gives Missouri a chance at what would be its ninth tournament appearance in the past 10 seasons.
"The Big 12 is as strong as I've seen it in 10 years. I think it'll be really unfair for the Big 12 to not get at least five, if not six," Kreklow said.
Both players and coaches understand they must finish strong to convince the committee. Matches against Baylor and Texas A&M next week present Missouri its final opportunities to prove itself worthy of a tournament bid.
"We want to make the tournament, so these next two matches are really important," junior Caitlyn Vann said after Saturday's loss.
"We certainly would like to get both of them. It would certainly help," Kreklow said matter of factly. "As much as everybody wants to win the game or the match, you can't even think about doing that unless you play well first."
After starting slowly in Saturday's match and dropping the first game 25-14, the Tigers rebounded with an inspired effort in the second game that they lost 30-28. After the disappointment from losing the second game, an Iowa State victory seemed almost inevitable. Missouri continued to battle but dropped the final game 25-20.
"We were playing pretty well in the second game and just made boneheaded mistakes at the wrong times," Vann said.
"The players want to play these kind of teams and these kind of matches," Kreklow said. "It's a fun atmosphere, and that's why everybody works so hard to be able to go out on a night like (tonight)."