COLUMBIA — This wasn't the plan.
After closing the regular season by sweeping a match Saturday at Texas Tech, the Missouri volleyball team was scheduled to be back in Columbia by Sunday. But after a mechanical problem with their plane forced the team to stay in Lubbock, Texas, on Sunday night, the Tigers had to find a new place to watch the NCAA Tournament selection show.
Missouri, which finished the season sixth in the Big 12 Conference standings at 7-9, but 21-12 overall, was hoping for an at-large berth.
The team improvised and went to Cap Rock Cafe in downtown Lubbock. Assistant coach Deng Yang bought black and gold balloons, and the team wrote "Mizzou volleyball" in black block letters on a poster board they used to cover up a sign with Texas Tech's 2011-2012 basketball schedule. They gathered around to watch ESPNU, awaiting their fate..
The team also wore yellow Hawaiian necklaces, a symbol that they were going to the "big dance."
Missouri coach Wayne Kreklow said switching venues isn't new for the team, but that this is the first time the Tigers had their selection show party on the road. The party has alternated between the Missouri locker room and Columbia restaurants like Shiloh Bar and Grill.
Kreklow said the idea of having a selection show party started in 2000, but that it's not an annual thing. It only happens when the coaches are fairly sure that the NCAA tournament committee will select them.
On Sunday, the Tigers found out they made the 64-team tournament for the second straight season. They will go back to the site where they knocked off then fifth-seed Northern Iowa in the first round in 2010. This time, however, they will play Florida (24-5) at 5 p.m. Friday in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
"Talent-wise they should probably be a much higher seed," Kreklow said of Florida.
Missouri will also get an early glimpse at Southeastern Conference competition when they play Florida.
"I guess there's a little irony in that for sure," Kreklow said of playing a team they will face in 2012 when MU goes to the SEC. "We get a little bit of a head start for next season, already."
If Missouri advances past the first round, they will either play host Northern Iowa (32-1) or Niagara (25-8).
Throughout the season, Missouri's coaches have had to adapt to having one of the youngest teams in the Big 12. That won't change in the NCAA tournament. With eleven underclassmen — seven whom are freshmen —Missouri is the youngest team in the tournament.
Kreklow admitted to being nervous throughout this year's show, especially because Missouri was in the second to last grouping of eight.
After Missouri was selected for the NCAA tournament, four Tigers landed on the All-Big 12 Conference postseason teams on Monday. Sophomore outside hitter Lisa Henning was selected All-Big 12, while sophomore setter Molly Kreklow received All-Big 12 Honorable Mention. Freshmen Whitney Little and Emily Wilson were selected to the All-Big 12 Freshman Team.