COLUMBIA — Gathered at Shiloh Bar and Grill, the Missouri volleyball team awaited its fate.
The players, seated at a rectangular table and surrounded by friends and family clad in black and gold attire, munched on pizza and appetizers. The murmur of conversation blended with the excitement that filled the room and eager eyes scanned the two flat-screen televisions mounted on the red brick walls.
Each time ESPNews returned from a commercial break and began discussing the NBA or NFL, team members let out loud groans. Their patience was being tried as they waited for the announcement of the selections for the NCAA Volleyball Tournament.
Finally, an image of the NCAA championship trophy flashed across the television, and the team let out a loud “Woo hoo!” The room fell silent as the first part of the bracket was revealed, then the second. And suddenly, the room erupted into applause and cheers, as Missouri’s name appeared on the screen.
For the first time since 2007, the Missouri volleyball team was selected to the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers will face Northern Iowa, the nation's fifth-ranked team, on Friday in the first round. The game will be played in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
Head coach Wayne Kreklow stood up to congratulate the team after the selection show ended, saying, “I hoped I would get a chance to say, ‘I told you so.’ Hard work really does pay off.”
The Tigers finished regular season play with a 20-10 overall record and a 12-8 record in the Big 12. Both records are the best by a Tiger volleyball team since 2005.
“From January on, we worked our butts off to improve and get to the level we needed to be,” said senior Julianna Klein, who was a member of the Tiger volleyball team in 2007.
For Klein, who couldn’t suppress her wide smile, Northern Iowa (30-2) presents a new challenge.
“What I’m really excited about is getting to see a new team and what everything else is like outside of our world in the Big 12,” Klein said.
Senior Catie Wilson explained how she is ready to show everyone what a great conference the Big 12 really is.
“Mizzou is back,” Wilson said. “And we’re ready to play.”
Kreklow was a little more reserved than Wilson, saying the team needs to fine-tune its game after struggling against Oklahoma in the Big 12 Tournament, but he's still hopeful.
“It’s going to be tough, but I think we’ve got a shot,” Kreklow said. “And that’s all you can ask for this time of year.”