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Missouri volleyball team sees improvement despite loss

Wednesday, November 9, 2011 | 11:32 p.m. CST; updated 12:37 a.m. CST, Thursday, November 10, 2011

COLUMBIA — The freshmen on the Missouri volleyball team don't have pleasant memories of the Tigers' match at Iowa State.

Freshman Whitney Little said the freshmen were nervous while they were waiting in the locker room for the Big 12 Conference opener to start.

"The first game we were all scared, just terrified," Little said.

The Cyclones swept Missouri in the Sept. 21 match, and the Tigers' freshman struggled throughout.

The result wasn't much better Wednesday night at Hearnes Center. Missouri lost to Iowa State 23-25, 25-12, 28-26, 25-20. However, the Tigers' freshmen played well, especially in pressure situations throughout the match. Three freshmen — Little, Emily Wilson and Katie O'Brien — accounted for half of Missouri's kills in the match.

O'Brien said she thinks Missouri is a completely different team since they last played the Cyclones.

"The first time we played them, it was a big TV match. I know I was really nervous," she said.

Late in the third set, with Missouri down by a point, O'Brien moved up to the net and received a pass from setter Molly Kreklow after the ball had gone back and forth several times. O'Brien spiked the ball just inside the line. Molly Kreklow ran over to O'Brien and said "Good hit." O'Brien smiled for a second and joined her screaming teammates in the huddle.

O'Brien said, earlier in the season, the freshmen struggled to keep their focus on such plays. Missouri coach Wayne Kreklow summed it up simply.

"A month and half ago, we have no shot," he said.

Wayne Kreklow said part of the change has come out of necessity. Opposing teams, like Iowa State, know that sophomore outside hitter Lisa Henning is a top playerin the Missouri offense. He said that puts more pressure on the freshmen to perform.

"Every time we play, everyone's game plan is to stop No. 5 (Henning). That's what everyone does, that's what I would do. I want to know where's she at, front row or back row," Wayne Kreklow said.

Wayne Kreklow said that means freshmen, like Little and O'Brien, will need to step up in the coming weeks.

"For us to be able to compete and have a shot to knock off top teams like that, we've got to have balance. We've got to have Whit," he said.


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