Missouri has overcome adversity most of the season.
On Saturday, the Tigers overcame tightness to defeat Baylor 25-30, 30-28, 30-28, 30-25 in a Big 12 Conference volleyball match at Hearnes Center.
Missouri coach Susan Kreklow said the team has fought through injuries, the loss of players and tough losses.
“We are proud of the way this team has responded to the things they’ve dealt with,” Kreklow said. “Those things are character building and I think the team has grown from those experiences.”
Senior Juliana Godoi said the Tigers were tense about earning a berth in the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers have reached three straight.
“Our only chance was to win,” Godoi said. “Everybody knew that we had to play everything out.”
The NCAA Tournament selections are announced at 7 tonight on ESPNEWS.
Baylor started strong and the Tigers needed to battle back from 3-0 deficits in the first two games.
Kreklow said the Tigers (19-10, 12-8) knew the importance of winning the final match.
“I think it was just us knowing that we needed to relax and play,” Kreklow said. “You have to find that right ‘zone,’ so to say, to play. We just need to relax and control the things that we can control.”
Godoi said Missouri was tight in Game 1, but that was only one factor of the Tigers’ sluggish play.
“It was senior night, we knew we had to win to have a chance to go (to the NCAA Tournament), it was our last game in the conference,” Godoi said. “There was a bunch of factors that made us a little tense.”
Missouri tied the game at 22, but Baylor (12-22, 4-16) closed with an 8-3 streak.
Seniors Stevie Nicholas and Tisha Schwartz led the Bears. Nicholas moved from libero to outside hitter five matches ago and led the Bears with 22 kills. Schwartz earned 18.
Kreklow said the Tigers were aware of Nicholas, but said she played a good match.
“She is a nice attacker,” Kreklow said. “She has been out of attacking, playing libero and coming off of a knee injury. Before her knee injury she was one of the best outside hitters in the country.”
Godoi said associate coach Wayne Kreklow challenged the Tigers after Game 1.
“He told us it looks from the outside that we were scared,” Godoi said. “We know we weren’t scared, that we were too tense. But he had to bring it up to make sure we woke up for the game.”
The Tigers started slowly again in Game 2 and called a timeout with Baylor leading 13-7.
Shen Danru said the coaches stayed positive despite Missouri’s struggles.
“I think our coaches gave us more encouragement and everyone has confidence that we can do well,” Shen said.
Missouri took the lead with a 15-4 streak. The Bears pulled to 29-28, but a Shen kill tied the match.
Shen tied a career high with 24 kills in the match, nine in Game 3.
Kreklow said Missouri served aggressively and that helped the Tigers overcome the nervous start. Missouri earned 11 aces, withNicole Wilson leading with five.
“You have to go back and serve aggressively to take a team out of their offense,” Kreklow said. “If you can do that, it allows you to set up your defense and transition.”