After battling through an intense back-and-forth match against the overall fifth seeded University of Northern Iowa in the first round of the NCAA volleyball tournament, Julianna Klein was overwhelmed with pride.
“From the beginning of this year, from January on, I just feel proud of what we’ve accomplished and everything we’ve worked for,” Klein said in a phone interview. “I’m just so proud of everybody.”
Klein, slamming down the final kill of the hard-fought third set, helped lead the Tigers to a 3-2 victory (25-19, 17-25, 26-24, 26-28, 15-10) over UNI with 12 kills during the match.
“I think they did phenomenal,” coach Wayne Kreklow said of the Tigers in a phone interview. “They were going to need one of the best matches of the year to beat UNI on their home court, and that’s what they did.”
The up and down game saw the Tigers winning the first match, losing the second, winning the third, losing the fourth and finally claiming victory in the fifth. With the win, Missouri claimed the biggest first round upset in the NCAA tournament since 2000, when seeding was introduced.
“During the match, it was an emotional rollercoaster,” Klein said. “It was up and down and everything.”
Klein contributed the team’s ability to remain even-headed to the coaching staff.
“On the sideline, it was all positive talk,” Klein said. “They were telling us we were doing great and to keep going.”
Klein also cited the encouragement of teammate Caitlyn Vann as an immense help, describing Vann as the team’s cheerleader.
Vann, a senior libero, led the Tigers with 35 digs during the match, and freshman setter Molly Kreklow handed out 56 assists. Senior outside hitter Paola Ampudia racked up a team-high 22 kills.
The rest the Tigers have gotten over the past two days while preparing for the match in Cedar Falls, Iowa, was also an important factor in the team’s performance, according to Klein.
With two solid nights of rest under their belts, the Tigers were able to play at their peak. Tomorrow they may not be afforded the luxury of a good night's rest. The match ended at close to eleven o’clock at night, and the team will have practice on Saturday before facing Northwestern (20-12) at 4 p.m. in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
With tonight’s victory, though, the Tigers couldn’t be happier.
“We’re all so excited,” Klein said. “We’re in seventh heaven.”