Jessica Vander Kooi couldn’t help crying after her career ended with the Missouri volleyball team’s loss to host Stanford on Sunday night in a first round match of the NCAA Tournament. But, through the tears, the All-American outside hitter said she was proud of her team’s performance.
“We played our hearts out,” she said.
Missouri (18-13) took No. 2 seed Stanford to the brink of elimination on the Cardinal’s home floor, before falling 20-30, 30-27, 24-30, 30-25, 9-15. The Tigers were huge underdogs in the match, but hung with Stanford thanks to a balanced attack, with five players reaching double figures in kills, led by Vander Kooi’s 18.
As Game 5 began, the Tigers seemed to have all the momentum. A fired-up Missouri squad stormed on to the court, but Stanford (27-3) improved their play and cruised to the victory behind Foluke Akinrawedo (26 kills) and Kristin Richards (22).
Missouri coach Wayne Kreklow said both teams played great, but Stanford was just a little better.
“That was a great volleyball match,” he said. “I couldn’t be more proud of our kids and the way they battled. We competed well, and both teams played at a high level. They came up with big plays when they needed to.”