Wang’s assists help Missouri win in five sets

Sunday, October 22, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:52 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

At the end of the 2005 Missouri volleyball season, Lindsey Hunter had 6,096 career assists.

Hunter graduated from MU in the spring and will represent the United States in the FIVB World Championships later this month in Japan. Lei Wang, a redshirt freshman, did the setting for the Tigers on Saturday in their win over Kansas State.

Wang had 58 assists and 15 digs as No. 12 Missouri survived in a 30-26, 26-30, 30-22, 27-30, 15-12 win in front of 3,221 fans at Hearnes Center. The win snapped a two-match losing streak for the Tigers and gave Missouri two wins over Kansas State this season.

Hunter left Missouri as the Big 12’s all-time leader in assists, and Wang, from Shanghai, China, said she had a tough time handling the pressure of taking over for one of the Tigers’ all-time best players.

“I know people are going to compare me and her,” she said. “I’m just me. If I’m good, I’m good, if I’m bad, I’m bad, as long as I try my best.”

Wang has had an up-and-down freshman season and Missouri coach Wayne Kreklow often says her play is the difference between his team playing well and his team struggling.

Kreklow said that it takes time for attackers to get used to playing with a new setter. But Wang has started to develop a connection with middle blocker Nicole Wilson.

Wilson led Missouri with 23 kills Saturday. And, when it mattered most, Wang looked her way.

The Tigers and Wildcats traded points for most of Game 5, and Missouri led just 12-11 before Wilson had the match’s two biggest kills. She gave the Tigers a two-point cushion with a kill that put Missouri up 13-11, and, moments later, put the match away with another kill that ended the game at 15-12.

Kreklow said that Wang and Wilson are playing much better together lately.

“I think they feel much more comfortable with each other,” he said. “The only problem is that Lei goes to the well a little too often sometimes. We need to start using Nicole to set up points for other people.”

Jessica Vander Kooi added 19 kills and 12 digs for Missouri (14-6, 8-3 in the Big 12 Conference). Angie Lastra led Kansas State (9-12, 1-10) with 23 kills.

Missouri struggled all night, failing to put away the Big 12’s last-place team. But, Kreklow was happy with the way his team pulled out the close match.

“Sometimes you just have to find a way to win when things aren’t going well,” he said.

Missouri will take its second shot at No. 1 Nebraska on Wednesday night in Lincoln. The Tigers fell 3-0 to the undefeated Cornhuskers on Oct. 11.

And, even though Wang had one of her best statistical matches of the season Saturday, she knows she has a long way to go before Missouri fans will begin to forget about Hunter.

“At the beginning I thought I was OK,” Wang said. But, after we played games, I thought ‘Wow, there are a lot of things I need to improve.’ If I told you all of them, it’d take an hour.”

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