An impressive rally fell short. A back-and-forth game turned on an unlucky tip of the net. A career game from an outside hitter went for naught.
No matter what the Missouri volleyball team does, it can’t beat Kansas State.
The No. 19 Wildcats beat the Tigers 30-26, 35-33, 30-24 Saturday night at Hearnes Center.
It was Kansas State’s eighth straight win against Missouri, which hasn’t beaten the Wildcats since October of 2000. None of this season’s Tigers were on that team.
The Wildcats have also won 20 of the teams’ past 21 meetings.
This one was especially tough.
“We should have definitely won these games,” senior outside hitter Jenny Duitsman said. “We just started to fall apart … it’s really, really frustrating to lose a game like that.”
Kansas State jumped on MU early in Game 1. After spotting the Tigers a 1-0 lead, Kansas State rattled off seven straight points and eventually extended its lead to 15-3.
The Tigers staged a furious rally that cut the lead to 26-24, but a cross-court kill by Vali Hejjas gave Kansas State the win.
“We started off in too deep of a hole,” junior setter Lindsey Hunter said.
Game 2 was played differently but with the same result. This time, Missouri came back from an early deficit for a 25-20 lead, but a 7-0 run put the Wildcats back in the game.
A fluke play tipped the balance of the game Kansas State’s way. At 33-33, Sandy Werner hit a ball from the edge of the playing surface that hit the net, dropped on MU’s side and gave Kansas State a game point. The Wildcats capitalized with a kill from Lisa Martin.
If it hadn’t been for outside hitter Jessica Vander Kooi, MU might not have even been close. The sophomore led MU with 19 kills and 15 digs and had a .545 hitting percentage.
In the crucial second game, she made kills to fight off two Wildcat game points and give the Tigers one of their own.
“I really don’t think about (individual play),” said Vander Kooi, who was visibly upset after the match. “It’s a team effort … We played hard, but it wasn’t hard enough.”
The rest of MU’s attackers, however, struggled against a persistent Kansas State block. Junior Shen Danru hit .091 and freshman Na Yang had more errors than kills, resulting in a negative .053 hitting percentage.
Duitsman said the Wildcats’ swing block frustrated the Tigers. On a swing block, instead of jumping straight up, a player swings her body into the block.