Tigers spike ‘Horns

The Tigers defeated a top-five team for the first time.
Sunday, September 24, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:37 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

Jessica Vander Kooi and Na Yang struggled to fight back tears.

Nicole Wilson admitted she was in a state of shock. A half hour after the Missouri volleyball team finished off its sweep of Texas Saturday night, the entire team was still on the floor. The players were posing for pictures. And when the team seemed to be ready to leave, there were more requests for pictures from the Tigers’ fans who were scattered all over the court of Hearnes Center.

A buzz was in the air. This is the type of scene usually reserved for national title victories, Or at least conference championship wins. But, this was no ordinary regular-season win.

The No. 22 Tigers (9-4, 3-2 in the Big 12) dominated the No. 5 Longhorns (8-3, 3-1 in the Big 12) 30-23, 30-23, 30-19 in front of a crowd of 2,477 at Hearnes Center. It was the first ever win for the Tigers over a top-five team.

“Tonight was a great win for us,” Vander Kooi said. “They had all the pressure tonight, and we had none.”

Three days after coach Wayne Kreklow celebrated the milestone 300th win of his coaching career when Missouri beat Kansas State 3-1, he watched his team record perhaps the biggest win of his career.

“This is a huge win,” he said. “This ranks right up there with any we’ve had here.”

After Missouri struggled in a 3-2 win over Texas A&M Sept. 16, Kreklow said he felt there were certain teams the Tigers would have a tough time competing with, and that Texas was one of them.

“Nebraska and Texas are head-and-shoulders above the rest of the Big 12 right now,” he said.

Kreklow’s team might have made him rethink that.

“When we’re playing like this, we’re capable of beating any team in the country,” he said. “Everybody played well, everybody was clicking on all cylinders.”

Missouri struggled through an ugly game one, but played nearly flawless in games two and three. The Tigers recorded a .487 hitting percentage in game three, and for the first time in MU history in rally-scoring, the Tigers had zero errors in an entire game.

After a loss to Colorado Sept. 13 resulted in the team’s first three-match losing streak since 2003, Missouri has won three straight. Kreklow said that is a sign of his team’s character.

“I couldn’t be more proud of all of them,” he said. “It is so tough to come back from a losing streak like that.”

Yang led Missouri with 17 kills and 7 digs. Vander Kooi added 13 kills and Wilson had 9 blocks. Dariem Acevedo paced Texas with 11 kills.

After all the team photos had been taken and the floor of Hearnes Center finally started to clear out, the Tigers’ players still had a tough time putting into words exactly how much this win meant to them.

“I still don’t think it’s completely sunk in,” Wilson said. “I feel amazing.”

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