For most of the day, it looked like the Missouri volleyball team would have an easy Saturday. Then the Idaho Vandals made things a little tougher.
In the end, the Tigers (4-2) came away with two victories Saturday at Hearnes Center to take second place in the Tiger Invitational behind Creighton.
MU beat Mississippi State in the early game 3-0 (30-24, 30-15, 30-18) and then took a 2-0 game lead on Idaho before the Vandals came back with a fury.
“We knew that after the second game, they were going to come out and they were going to be on us,” MU junior Lisa Boyd said. “Their backs were against the wall, so they had to do whatever they could. They came out and played really well.”
Game three saw the Vandals and Tigers battle back and forth, with neither team taking a lead of more than three points. Missouri staved off two game points to tie the game at 29 before a Jessica Vander Kooi service error and a net violation gave Idaho the 31-29 victory.
Idaho opened game four with similar play, taking a 14-10 lead on MU with eight kills and only one error. But the Tigers were able to fight back to a 25-25 tie. The game was also tied at 26, 27, 28, 29 and 30.
“It puts a lot of pressure on everybody,” Vander Kooi said. “I think tonight was good for us, it gave us a chance to learn how to play with that kind of stress each point.”
With the game tied at 30, however, middle blocker Nicole Wilson and outside hitter Shen Danru both recorded kills to win the game 32-30 and the match 3-1. For the Vandals, it was the first loss of the season.
Vander Kooi said the moment when Shen’s final kill hit the floor was especially sweet.
“That was the best feeling in the world,” Vander Kooi said. “Just the relief — we won, it’s over.”
Boyd, a middle blocker, had a solid day. She made eight kills with no errors for a career-high .800 winning percentage against Mississippi State, and then received her first start of the season against Idaho. She responded with 18 kills, five blocks and five errors. She said it was one of the better matches of her career.
“It was pretty good,” Boyd said. “Hopefully there will be better ones in the future.”
Coach Susan Kreklow said Boyd’s quickness as a middle blocker made her a good fit to start against Idaho.
“We’ve got four very different middles, and we’ll use them in different ways,” Kreklow said. Junior setter Lindsey Hunter added 68 assists, one shy of her career high.
In the game against Mississippi State, the Tigers made only nine errors as a team in a blowout. Middle blocker Nicole Wilson had an incredible .600 hitting percentage, with 13 kills and only one error in 20 attacks. Na Yang added 10 kills and only two errors, and Shen had nine kills with three errors. MU’s team hitting percentage was .430.
Hunter served three aces in the first game as part of a 6-0 run. The Tigers won the game 30-23, and then won an easy second game with a 9-0 run that gave them a 17-4 lead. After another quick start in game three, the Tigers had all but secured the 3-0 victory over the Bulldogs, who finished the tournament 1-3.
Creighton middle blocker Sarah Beulke was named the tournament MVP. Two Tigers, Wilson and Hunter, were named to the all-tournament team.