Despite a loss to Nebraska on Wednesday, the Missouri volleyball team called the night a success because of a number of bright spots. One of the brightest was serving.
The No. 8 Huskers beat MU 3-0 (30-27, 30-24, 31-29) in Lincoln, Neb., but the Tigers hung around in every game with a top-10 team on the road partly because they served better than their opponent.
MU had a season-high eight aces against three service errors. The plus-five differential for the Tigers is a season high, and the three errors are a season low. Sophomore middle blocker Nicole Wilson and junior setter Lindsey Hunter each had three aces.
What makes it more impressive is that these statistics came against the No. 8 team in the country.
Wilson said good serving makes it a lot easier to compete with high-caliber teams.
“If we can get those aces in there, their passes are going to be tentative next time,” Wilson said. “They may not pass as well, and then it’s easier for us to block them.”
Associate coach Wayne Kreklow said the team usually chooses a weak link in the opposing defense and serves to her. He also said MU benefits from having many different styles of serving.
“Nicole Wilson stands deep in the court and serves this nasty floater that you never know where it’s going to go,” Kreklow said. “Hunter serves her jump serve, (freshman Tatum Ailes) is good at placement … mixing and matching works well because you don’t allow the other team to get into a good rhythm.”
Wilson, who leads the Tigers with 20 aces, compares her floating serve to a knuckleball in baseball.
“As it goes, it just kind of moves,” she said. “It catches the air that’s going through the gym and moves with that and sometimes it may just drop suddenly.”
Even with the serving success and otherwise solid play by MU at Nebraska, the Huskers came away with a sweep.
“It’s frustrating to know we were so close in all three games and we couldn’t close it,” junior middle blocker Lisa Boyd said. “We couldn’t get ahead of them.”
Another team smarting from losing its first Big 12 contest is Baylor. Saturday, MU (4-3 overall, 0-1 Big 12) will host the Bears at 5 p.m. at Hearnes Center. Baylor (6-4, 0-1) lost 3-0 to Texas on Wednesday, in large part because of serving woes. Baylor did not have an ace and committed 10 service errors.
The Bears are led by 6-foot-5 sophomore middle blocker Desiree Guillard-Young, who is has 3.29 kills per game and has a season hitting percentage of .447. Wednesday, she attacked at a .632 rate against Texas.