For Nicole Wilson, one feat will remain unaccomplished.
The senior middle blocker from Lincoln, Neb., has achieved a lot in her four years on the Missouri volleyball team. Most notably, a 25-win season last year which saw the Tigers reach the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament for the first time.
As a freshman in 2003, Wilson and the Tigers beat Nebraska in Lincoln. Wilson said many of her friends told her she would never be able to beat her home-state school, and Wilson called that win “one of the best moments ever.”
Wednesday night, however, she and the Tigers failed in her last attempt to beat the Cornhuskers in front of her home fans.
No. 1 Nebraska improved to 16-0 overall and 8-0 in Big 12 Conference play with a 30-25, 30-22, 31-29 win over Missouri (13-5, 7-2) at Hearnes Center.
The loss snaps Missouri’s seven-match winning streak and 11-match home winning streak.
Wilson, one of four Missouri players from Nebraska, did all she could to try to end the Cornhuskers’ winning streak over the Tigers in Columbia, which now stands at 23. While most of her teammates struggled, Wilson played one of her best matches of the season, leading the Tigers with 13 kills while committing just three of Missouri’s 22 errors.
Despite her strong play, however, Wilson left Hearnes Center court unfulfilled.
“It’s always a big match playing Nebraska,” she said. “In part because I’m from there and know a lot of the players. But, it’s a match where you go out and play and whatever happens, happens. But, you have to control your own side. We didn’t focus in like we should have. It’s disappointing.”
At times the Tigers seemed ready to play with the undefeated Cornhuskers. Missouri led 17-14 in Game 1 before a series of unforced errors and mistakes allowed the Huskers to take command. And, after getting dominated in Game 2, the Tigers led throughout much of Game 3, but let a late 28-26 advantage slip away.
Senior outside hitter Jessica Vander Kooi said she felt Game 1 was a turning point.
“Not falling off in Game 1, the whole night would have been different,” she said.
A crowd of 6,105, the third-largest in Missouri volleyball history, failed to rattle a poised Nebraska team. It was the Tigers who seemed unable to handle the atmosphere, appearing nervous throughout the entire match.
In the days leading up to the match, the Tigers talked about coming out and playing with nothing to lose, something they did Sept. 23 when they upset then-No. 5 Texas. Missouri coach Wayne Kreklow said he felt his team failed to do that against the Cornhuskers.
“Against Texas, we just attacked, we went out and played,” he said. “We seemed tense tonight. We were tentative.”
Kreklow said that outside of Wilson and Vander Kooi, the rest of the team struggled. Na Yang, a key player throughout the Tigers’ winning streak, had just five kills to go along with six errors.
“We’re not going to beat good teams two on six,” Kreklow said. “This is very atypical of us. That wasn’t the Missouri volleyball team out there you’ve seen the last four weeks. I honestly feel like if we had a few other people playing well tonight, it would have been close down to the wire.”