Missouri volleyball prepares for Tennessee

Tuesday, September 11, 2012 | 11:55 p.m. CDT; updated 7:56 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Taylor Simpson prepares for a drill Tuesday at Hearnes Center.

An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect nickname for the starting lineup of the 2005 Missouri volleyball team.

COLUMBIA — The Missouri volleyball team had a rougher time than it wanted last weekend at the Morehead State Invitational, but the Tigers are hoping some good comes out of it Wednesday when they face Tennessee in the program's Southeastern Conference opener at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Hearnes Center.

Missouri player Jade Hayes said a 16-25, 26-24, 25-23, 21-25, 15-13 loss Friday against the tournament host Eagles was frustrating, "but showed us that we need to be more hungry no matter who we play."

Missouri coach Wayne Kreklow said his team should not be distracted by the hype surrounding its first SEC game, which is set to be broadcast by ESPNU. He said his players need to focus on playing well and showing off their abilities. 

“I know what we're up against, because Tennessee is a great team,” he said. “Our primary goal is to play well, because if you execute things well you're going to get the result you want more times than not.”

Kreklow discussed the level of competition the Tigers must expect in the upcoming game. He said Tennessee has "big, physical, athletic kids," but doesn't think his players will be intimidated by their size. He said his team needs to be more precise in this match to combat Tennessee's physical advantage.

Missouri lost to Tennessee in the 2005 NCAA Championship's regional final in December 2005, ending a successful season. Assistant Missouri coach and Tigers alum Lindsey Hunter was a part of the starting lineup in 2005.

"It was heartbreaking to lose that last match," Hunter said. "In 2005, we had a very strong year and that was actually the match to go to the Final Four, and the best that Missouri's done in history. It was tough to deal with that loss as my last senior game."

With a 4.77 kills average, Tennessee outside hitter Kelsey Robinson is the only player in the SEC to top Missouri outside hitter Lisa Henning's 4.40 kills average. As roommates during the last season's All-American banquet, the two became friends.

“I need to focus on playing my game and not trying to beat her, and whatever the outcome is that’s just how it’s going to happen,” Henning said. 

Kreklow does not want to focus on a win or loss against Tennessee, but on playing an awesome game.

“Wednesday night we’re just going to have to execute, play well and try to focus on doing our best,” Kreklow said.

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