Jessica Vander Kooi was not going to let her team lose again.
Missouri’s volleyball team went 0-2 at the Texas Invitational last weekend, and after Tuesday’s practice, an emotional Vander Kooi admitted that the team was having a tough time dealing with the losses.
“It’s rough at times,” Vander Kooi said. “We’re a young team, so it’s tough for us.”
A five-game loss at Colorado Wednesday brought the losing streak tothree, the Tigers longest since 2003, but Vander Kooi and
her teammates made sure there were no tears after Saturday’s Big 12 home op-
ener against Texas A&M.
No. 17 Missouri (7-4, 1-1 in Big 12) won a nail-biting five-game match, 30-24, 22-30, 20-30, 30-20, 15-11.
For a time, it looked like the losing streak would reach four. Missouri trailed the Aggies (7-3, 0-2 in Big 12) 2-1 and was outplayed badly in games two and three.
Tigers coach Wayne Kreklow said his team was “very emotionally vulnerable” after game three, and Vander Kooi admitted it was tough for the team to remain confident.
“I even thought ‘Here we go again’ after that third game,” she said. “But I told myself ‘I can’t let this happen again, I have to do something.’”
What Vander Kooi did was lead a balanced Missouri attack with 17 kills, 10 digs, and 3 aces. Na Yang added another 17 kills and 11 digs and Julianna Klein had 15 kills. Mary Batis led the Aggies with 20 kills.
Missouri struggled all night, finishing the match with a hitting percentage of just 18.6, and Kreklow called his team’s performance “very inconsistent.
“But it says a lot about our group to be able to bounce back from a horrible game three,” he said. “It shows us that no matter how bleak things look, we can come back and win.”
Kreklow said his team was emotional all week long, but that he knew that things would get better.
“I told the team that they needed to know we were going to work through this, and that good things are going to happen for us,” he said. “We are going to get better but it takes time, it’s not like flicking on a light switch.”
It was the 100th consecutive start for Vander Kooi, and she and fellow seniors Nicole Wilson and Abbie Booth went 64-25 through their first three seasons, including the Tigers’ first NCAA tournament Elite Eight appearance last year. So the adversity of a three-match losing streak is not something she is used to. However, Vander Kooi thinks Saturday may have been a turning point.
“We just have to remember how it felt those last two games,” she said. “If we play like that, we are going to be just fine.”
Missouri now hits the road for a Wednesday contest against No. 24 Kansas State in Manhattan, Kan. before returning home for a showdown with No. 5 Texas on Saturday.