Saturday was a night of missed opportunities for No. 24 Missouri.
The Tigers missed an opportunity to win a matchup between top-25 volleyball teams and continue their winning streak at Hearnes Center.
No. 21 Texas A&M beat the Tigers 30-21, 13-30, 30-28, 27-30, 15-13 in a Big 12 Conference match.
“We had opportunities,” Missouri coach Susan Kreklow said. “I think for us this was a match of missed opportunities. We had several chances to take control of the match and really take the momentum. When you are playing a good team, you have to do them to win.”
In the preseason, Missouri and Texas A&M were picked to tie for fourth in the Big 12. Missouri outside hitter Lindsey Noll said the rankings were accurate, with the teams evenly matched.
“They are tough to play,” Noll said. “They play the game very similar to the way we play. They run a really quick offense, and they are enthusiastic. They played awesome tonight.”
The teams were even for most of the last three games, for neither team had more than a four-point lead.
Kreklow said volleyball is a game of momentum, but with the Tigers and Aggies so similar, it was difficult for both teams to gain an edge.
Lisa Boyd said that the Tigers (16-6, 9-4) were confident coming into the match, but were not overlooking the Aggies. The Tigers had been 8-0 at Hearnes this season, one win shy of the MU record.
Missouri took a 5-2 lead in Game 5, but the Aggies earned five of six points to gain the lead. Carrie Moreira and Kendra Felder combined for a block to put Texas A&M (17-5, 9-3) ahead.
Noll earned a kill and an ace to regain the lead for the Tigers, and the teams traded points to tie it at 13. Carol Price had two straight kills for the Aggies to win the match.
Noll led the Tigers to a 6-3 lead in Game 3 with a kill and a block, but the Tigers could not keep control, and Texas A&M scored four of the last six points to win on a Juliana Godoi service error.
Missouri also had an early lead in Game 4 and used a 3-0 streak to make the lead 22-18. The Aggies closed to 26-26, but the Tigers used two Shen Danru kills to win the game.
Noll and Boyd led the Tigers with strong individual performances, setting career high in kills. Noll had 20 and Boyd had 16.
“They both did a nice job,” Kreklow said. “They both took aggressive swings and did what we needed them to do. They both stepped up and kept the pressure on by attacking the ball. In a match like this, you need your hitters to take charge.”
Noll said the reason for the career night was the MU offense changing strategy to attack an Aggies weakness.
“A&M was really struggling to block slides tonight,” Noll said. “Sometimes we have to adjust our offense to what they are struggling with. I thought Lindsey (Hunter) was really smart in making sure to do the right thing with the offense.”
Texas A&M started the night strong by gaining an early lead. The Aggies had a 7-2 lead after a Price kill. After a timeout, the Tigers scored three straight to close, but the Aggies responded with a 4-1 surge to win easily.
“Texas A&M is one of those teams that comes out extremely fired up,” Noll said. “They are one of those teams that will always win the first game, no matter how fired up you are. After that they calm down. And we made a lot of mistakes in the game, and we just talked after it and came together.”
Kreklow said she was pleased with the way the Tigers played, but that Game 1 featured too many unforced errors.
“We were a little slow in getting started,” Kreklow said. “We were a little too predictable, and when you are predictable it is hard to run an offense and get going. A&M had several blocks in Game 1 because we had difficulty mixing things up at the net.”
Missouri took momentum in Game 2 with a 5-0 start. And with an efficient offense and no hitting errors, it did not allow Texas A&M to get close.
“We weren’t playing our game the first game,” Boyd said. “We were making too many mistakes and not taking care of second balls. The second game, I think we came out and kind of shocked them. We just came out and played together as a team so well, and they couldn’t adjust to it.”
Missouri and Texas A&M had 108 digs in the match, an indication of how well both played.
“They played very well tonight and as a whole I thought we played well throughout the match as well,” Kreklow said. “I think the difference came down to little things.”