Missouri volleyball coach Wayne Kreklow said he has been working with his players to become smarter hitters, on Sunday the Tigers looked like geniuses.
No. 21 Missouri (2-0) used a combination of power and finesse to upset No. 9 Tennessee 30-27, 30-23, 30-20 to win the Tiger Invitational at Hearnes Center. The loss dropped the Volunteers to 2-1.
“You can be effective if you mix things up,” Kreklow said. “If you don’t come with a fastball every time, you can really tie people in knots.”
One of the ways the Tigers mixed things up was by using tip shots, a shot that is soft and floats over the net instead of the usual spike. Missouri had at least 10 points off tip shots.
“They are a really good defensive team and I think after swinging away at a couple of balls throwing in the tip really keeps them off guard,” senior setter Lindsey Hunter said.
Hunter said tipping is a decision that player makes in mid-air, but that the back row players call out where the blockers are so the hitters know how to approach their shot.
“Our hitters were really smart when they did it,” junior middle blocker Nicole Wilson said. “They didn’t do it when they had one blocker. They did it when they had two and they were smart about where they tipped.”
When the Tigers weren’t tipping, they used sophomore outside hitter Na Yang’s power to score points. Na led the team with 15 kills.
“When I was in the front row (Hunter) trusts me so, I got to kill the ball,” Na said. “Their setter is a little bit shorter than me, so I have an advantage from her.”
Na played an important roll in the Tigers first-game victory. The game was tied at 27 when Na and senior middle blocker Lisa Boyd combined for a block to give the Tigers the lead. Na then had a kill on each of the next two points to give Missouri the win. In the second game, Na had three kills and shared a block with junior middle blocker Nicole Wilson in an eight-point run by the Tigers.
Kreklow credits the play of his middle blockers to the success of Na on Sunday.
“I thought Nic (Nicole Wilson) and Boyd did a really outstanding job today of really forcing the Tennessee middle blockers to hold in the middle,” Kreklow said. “That was one of the big reasons we were opening up for the outside hitters and Na was taking advantage of it.”
Junior outside hitter Shen Danru had 13 kills and 14 digs. The Tigers had five players with 10 or more kills.
Missouri’s Jessica Vander Kooi, Wilson and Na were named to the all tournament team along with Tennessee’s Amy Morris and Yuliya Stoyanova. Hunter was the Most Valuable Player of the tournament.
The team’s next game is at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday against University of Missouri Kansas-City at the Hearnes Center.