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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Missouri hosts Tiger Invitational to start regular season

The weekend tournament will help shape the season ahead.

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Rachel Krause/Graphic Designer

Aug. 28, 2009

Although conference games often seem to be the most important matches of the season for the Tigers, tournaments at the beginning of the season also play a large role in the overall progression of the team.

This weekend's Tiger Invitational will give coach Wayne Kreklow an impression on how the team has progressed from preseason to where it needs to be to match up with Big 12 opponents.

Kreklow said he noticed the importance of the early season tournaments and what they mean for the season as a whole.

"These tournaments are a good indicator of where you are right now and where you need to improve upon down the road," Kreklow said. "You think you'll be able to know what you want to do, but you just go out and see what happens."

The Tigers will be facing defending Southland Conference Champions Texas State in their first match Friday.

Most of the Bobcats squad has returned, but they have to fill the shoes of graduating senior middle hitter Emily Jones Wilkes, who compiled 252 kills, 111 blocks and a .335 hitting percentage in 2008.

Missouri's next match will be played at noon Saturday against Ole Miss, a team against whom the Tigers hold the all-time series lead with four wins and three losses. The Rebels struggled to a 14-15 record (10-10 in SEC play) in 2008 and allowed a hitting percentage of .219 while holding a .182 hitting percentage on offense.

BYU is a team that might provide a glimpse into how Missouri will stack up against the bigger, tougher teams in Big 12 play.

The team has nine players at the six-foot mark or above, including senior right side hitter Kayla Walker who stands at 6 feet 5 inches tall.

Heading out onto the court this weekend will be a different experience from what the Black and Gold game provided for the Tigers, especially for the younger players on the squad.

"There's a certain amount of nerves for the younger players and they'll be tight when we start, but I think they'll settle down as we start to play," Kreklow said.

Senior middle blocker Amanda Hantouli also said she noticed what the first official match of the season signifies and how it will test the younger players on the squad.

"Once people notice that we have the crowd behind us and we do settle down, then things will begin to fall into place," Hantouli said.

Senior setter Lei Wang-Francisco said the Black and Gold game prepared the Tigers for regular season play.

"The Black and Gold game was showing coach where we're at and making the lineup up," Wang-Francisco said. "But now it's a real game for us to play and I'm sure it will be really different."

It will not just be nerves the Tigers will be worried about this weekend. Missouri has faced all of the teams traveling to Columbia for this weekend's tournament in past years, and the visitors will be looking for wins on the home court of a Big 12 opponent.

"Texas State, BYU, and Ole Miss are all top teams in their conferences and they all want to beat a Big 12 team, especially in our house," Hantouli said.

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