COLUMBIA — Anyone facing the No. 16-ranked Florida volleyball team is in for a tough challenge, as the Missouri volleyball has discovered twice this season.
After being swept by Florida on Sept. 21, the Missouri volleyball team knew it would need to dig deep to exact revenge on the Gators on Friday evening at the Hearnes Center.
“I do think we’re a good team, but that’s a great team,” said Missouri head coach Wayne Kreklow. Florida swept Missouri 3-0 for a second time this season (17-25, 16- 25, 19-25).
“Great teams have really good players at every single position that are just solid across the board, and Florida is one of those teams,” Kreklow said.
The Tigers tried to set the tone from the beginning. The game started off at a frantic pace, as sophomore Jade Hayes made the opening serve. Missouri went toe-to-toe with the Gators in the first set by scoring six points to Florida’s nine before the first timeout. But the Tigers began to fall behind and eventually lost the first set 17-25.
Missouri starters Lisa Henning, Jade Hayes, Molly Kreklow, Regan Peltier, Lydia Ely and Sarah Meister tried to inspire a comeback by huddling together for a few words before the start of the second set.
With the first serve clearing the net, the Tigers were hopeful of redeeming their first set, but they quickly fell behind 4-9 at the first timeout, after which their chances of a revival started to look slim.
It was then, for the first time this season, that sophomore Molly Kruse entered a game. She played for a few minutes and made one dig before the Gators won the set, 16- 25.
The third set also started off brightly for Missouri, with each team going blow-for-blow for their 11th, 12th and 13th points. The Tigers closely trailed Florida until the very end. The Gators won the third and final set 19-25.
“I think in the third game we really played well and held our own,” junior Lisa Henning said. “We just went in the locker room and we were like, 'Guys, we have nothing to lose. They're ranking, we’re not. They won the first two sets, and we didn’t. We have nothing to lose, so let’s just go out there and play hard.'”
Despite the Tigers' loss, Kreklow said the team put up a good fight .
“I thought our blocking and defense wasn’t too bad,” Kreklow said. “If you don’t control the ball really well against a team like that, it’s hard to generate offense, and that’s kind of what you see in the stats.”
Junior setter Molly Kreklow, Wayne Kreklow's niece, mentioned that sophomore middle blocker Whitney Little’s opportunities in the game might have suffered because of the team’s subpar passing during this match and the ball not landing in her area. Little made one kill on a -.222 hitting, an unusual statistic compared to her early season form.
“She’s working hard, and she’s doing the best that she can, but sometimes that just happens,” Molly Kreklow said. “If we’re not passing balls, it’s harder to get the ball to her.”
With five games left for the Tigers, Molly Kreklow said the team can still rebound from this loss and win its remaining home games.
The Tigers are now 17-9, overall, and 8-7 in Southeastern Conference play. They will play another SEC match Sunday against Louisiana State at 1:30 p.m. at the Hearnes Center.