No. 25 Missouri defeated Auburn in four sets (25-12, 25-14, 21-25, 27-25) on the road Friday night to improve to 11-4 on the season and 3-2 in conference play.
“Auburn was tough and really played well after a rough start,” interim coach Joshua Taylor said in a press release. “It’s always a good trip whenever you can walk away with a road SEC win.”
The Tigers dominated the first two sets against Auburn before falling back into a relaxed state that allowed Auburn to catch up as Missouri began making mistakes. The two main issues for Missouri over the past six games have been the alarming rate of errors and the team’s inability to stop teams once they make a run. Both of these issues were present in Friday's match, but a struggling last-place Auburn team didn’t quite have enough offensive power to take advantage against Missouri.
After struggling and eventually losing the third set, Missouri battled back with a close fourth set victory to end the match in extra points.
“We were a little inconsistent tonight, but I was pleased with our fight in the end of set four,” Taylor said. “We trailed almost that entire final set, but our ladies came together and made some big plays when we needed them the most.”
Here are the six biggest takeaways from Missouri’s road victory:
Tyanna Omazic came back in a big way
After missing Missouri’s last match against Ole Miss with an ankle injury, Omazic returned and gave the Tigers the spark and experience they needed to avoid a collapse. Omazic had a big night with 11 kills that all seemed to come in timely fashion. The 6-foot-2 middle blocker raised her season kills total to 136, which places her third on the team.
Missouri continued its sloppy play
After 36 total errors in Missouri’s loss to Ole Miss last week, the Tigers didn’t quite clean up their act against Auburn. With 25 attack errors and 7 service errors, Missouri gave Auburn 32 free points, more than a set’s worth. This especially was a problem in the third set. The Tigers had nine total errors in the third set alone that allowed Auburn to take the set 25-21.
The offense was more than just Kylie Deberg
Despite entering the match with 143.5 more points than her next closest teammate, Deberg struggled to hit efficiently against Auburn. But multiple teammates stepped up to replace the production. Deberg still led the team with 18 kills, but had 13 total errors and a hitting percentage of just .196. Dariana Hollingsworth-Santana and Leketor Member-Meneh contributed a combined 26 kills on a .410 hitting percentage to have their teammates' back.
Auburn piled up the errors
Luckily for Missouri, Auburn has the second-most hitting errors in the SEC and continued the trend on Friday with 19. This allowed Missouri to stay in the game despite its own sloppy play.Multiple times, there were three or four points in a row decided by errors. The two teams committed 58 errors in total.
Missouri’s service game needs work
Service errors killed Missouri’s momentum multiple times in the match. After Auburn made a mistake or Missouri made a nice kill, it was followed up with a service error that gave the serve right back to Auburn. The seven service errors were one of the biggest reasons a last-place Auburn squad almost pushed Missouri to five sets.
Missouri’s hitting percentage continues to drop
After leading the country for a majority of the season in hitting percentage, Missouri hasn’t hit the .300 mark in conference play yet. The Tigers still sit at .308 for the season, which ranks third in the country; but in the last three games, the Tigers have hit .257, .257 and .234. Missouri needs to improve on this area if it intends to compete on a high level in the SEC. One easy fix would be to feed the ball more frequently to Omazic, who ranks 20th in the country in hitting percentage with an average of .414.
The Tigers get a day off before returning to action at 2 p.m. Sunday for a matchup against Tennessee in the Hearnes Center. The Volunteers come into the match 9-8 on the season with a 3-4 conference record. Sunday’s match will be the annual 'Pink Out,' when the Missouri volleyball team will support the fight against breast cancer. The first 500 fans to be admitted into the arena will be given pink headbands.