Every upset comes with a rematch, and this time the roles were reversed but the outcome the same.
When the Missouri volleyball team first met Florida on Oct. 20, it was on the comfort of the Hearnes Center court. The upset of the then-No.2 Florida came with the roaring celebration of 3,000-plus Missouri fans.
The No. 7 Tigers were more than a thousand miles from home Friday when they faced the No. 5 Gators in a rematch that had Southeastern Conference championship implications. And though the roles were reversed, the result was similar — a sweep, an upset and yet another win for the Tigers.
"We knew that it was going to be tough coming in," senior All-American Lisa Henning said. "They always have a really really really tough crowd and Florida plays so well at home, but we knew we had the right tools to take advantage so we really just tried to play our game."
Florida, the reigning SEC champions, played on a court bordered by Gator blue with a huge home crowd wearing the same color. The student section wore matching white t-shirts that read "Point Florida" and spent the match intently screaming at any Missouri player attempting to serve. The scene was similar to the atmosphere at the Hearnes, where VolleyZou loudly and proudly cheers on the Tigers. This time though, the extra momentum, the seventh man of volleyball, was not on Missouri's side.
But what was on Missouri's side was its 29-game winning streak, the nation's largest and the greatest opening season this team has ever had. Also on Missouri's side was the Oct. 20 upset, a win that marked the first time Missouri has ever beaten a Top 5 team. What more was on Missouri's side was their "something to prove" mentality that has propelled this team to be undefeated so far.
The Tigers took the first set 25-22 and the second 25-23 both ending on kills from junior Emily Wilson. But in the third set, Florida came out blazing scoring five unanswered points, and Missouri faltered under the roar of the Florida home crowd and the increasing point deficit.
A timeout was called, and the Tigers reconvened.
When play resumed, Missouri responded to Florida with five unanswered points of its own to balance out the score. The set dwindled down with the lead being passed back and forth. With the Tigers trailing 19-21, Henning had back-to-back-to-back kills to take the lead. And it was on her serve that Missouri won the set 25-23 to improve to an astonishing 30-0 record.
"It (the three consecutive kills) was really awesome," Henning said. "I was feeling really good tonight. Molly and I were really connecting tonight, and we knew that in order to win the game we needed really push for that from the whole team and get in that system and take advantage of it, and we did."
Supervising editor is Nina Pantic.