The Missouri volleyball team showed Sunday it doesn’t take a flawless performance to beat a top-10 team. A little resiliency, though, never hurts.
The Tigers easily won the first two games but lost the third and had to win a tight, back-and-forth fourth game to upset No. 9 Texas 30-23, 30-24, 22-30, 31-29 at Hearnes Center. It was MU’s fourth straight win and their 11th in the past 13 matches.
MU (17-6 overall, 12-4 Big 12 Conference) also pulled into a third-place tie in the Big 12 with Texas A&M and within a game of Texas.The Longhorns are now 21-3, 13-3.
“Our theme for today was ‘Bend, but don’t break,’” associate coach Wayne Kreklow said. “We knew we were going to get pushed.”
In the first two games, neither Texas nor Mira Topic, its outside hitter and All-American candidate, had played to their capability, but after a 10-minute break between Games 2 and 3, Missouri started needing that bend-but-not-break mentality.
In Game 3, Topic got going with nine kills and Texas took control with a 4-0 run to go ahead 21-17. For the game, the Longhorns hit .500 compared to .213 for MU.
“We dropped off a little bit in Game 3,” Kreklow said. “It’s hard, when you get up 2-0, no matter what you say, you come out a little bit flat.”
In the next game, MU sped out to an early lead, but another 4-0 Texas run made the score 12-11 Longhorns. Missouri scored the next two points and held on to the lead until a block from Brandy Magee gave Texas the lead back at 26-25. The Tigers called a timeout, in dire need of some of that resiliency.
When play resumed, the Tigers got a cross-court kill from junior outside hitter Shen Danru and an ace from sophomore middle blocker Nicole Wilson move ahead, but Texas wasn’t done. Topic recorded two straight kills to give her 14 for the game and 32 for the match and to give the Longhorns a 28-27 lead.
“We pretty much shut her out the first two games,” Lindsey Hunter said, “But she just kept swinging.”
MU was bending, but got kills from Shen and middle blocker Lisa Boyd to take back the lead. The Tigers had a match point at last, but still weren’t done facing adversity. Hunter was called for a questionable lift violation, giving Texas a 29-29 tie. But once again, Missouri wouldn’t break.
“I personally didn’t think that was a lift and I was kind of upset, but you’ve just got to bounce back after things like that,” Hunter said. “We always say that the ball never lies.”
A kill from Shen down the line made it 30-29, and a double block from Boyd and Hunter finally put the exclamation point on the Tigers’ upset win.
Missouri didn’t need to worry about resiliency in the first two games because they were nearly flawless. Boyd had a big first game. She had eight kills and a .800 hitting percentage in the first game, not to mention two straight points where she and junior middle blocker Lindsey Noll blocked Topic attacks.
As a team, MU made only one error in Game 1 while making an astounding 22 kills and hitting .538.
The Longhorns came out strong in Game 2, winning seven of the game’s first nine points, but the Tigers stormed back to take a 17-15 lead. Setter Lindsey Hunter had three rare kills in the game and Boyd continued her hot play. It was the first time this season Texas has fallen behind 2-0.
“We just went out there with a lot of emotion,” sophomore outside hitter Jessica Vander Kooi said. “If they happened to get a play that went their way, we just said, ‘It’s all right, we’ll get the next one.’”