If junior hitter Lisa Henning was worried before Missouri’s volleyball team took on Ole Miss, sophomore blocker Whitney Little wasn’t.
Henning, the captain, had to keep the youthful Tigers (10-2, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) focused four days after their monumental upset of No. 17 Tennessee in their SEC opening match Wednesday.
“Playing this game right after Tennessee was nerve-racking,” she said. “It was scary to play this game.”
Little, meanwhile, got out to a quick start with five kills on .833 hitting in the first set to power the Tiger offense.
Both went on to score 13 kills in MU’s 3-0 (25-17, 25-19, 25-18) romp over the Rebels.
“We came out with a win against Tennessee on Wednesday, and we wanted to prove to everyone that match wasn’t a fluke,” Little said. “And I think we did.”
Missouri and Ole Miss traded points early on until a quick three-point run, highlighted by kills from sophomore hitter Taylor Simpson, Henning and sophomore hitter Emily Wilson, gave the Tigers a three-point lead they carried into a Rebel timeout.
Four serves from sophomore defensive specialist Jade Hayes bookending the break stretched the Tiger lead to five, which ebbed to three after Ty Laporte’s kill for Ole Miss found the floor. That forced coach Wayne Kreklow to take a timeout. From the stoppage, though, Missouri rebounded and opened up an eight-point advantage that carried through the remainder of the set. Little’s tip on a backdoor slide forced the Rebels into four touches and gave Missouri the set.
Junior setter Molly Kreklow continued to set Little on backdoor slides through the match’s entirety. In the practice preceding the match, Wayne Kreklow said his team planned to exploit the Rebel’s left-side blockers.
“Whit was the beneficiary today of a lot of that,” he said.
Little said she liked hitting behind Molly.
“I like going off of one foot, getting to jump higher and getting to run behind the hit," Little said. "You get to get up high and see where the blocks are a lot easier than hitting a one or a three or a six.”
The Tigers did not open up a large lead until late in the second set, when a Mississippi rotation violation gave the Rebels a three-point deficit. Then freshman hitter Regan Peltier’s swing went uncontrolled by the Ole Miss back line, and Little pounded another slide from Molly Kreklow, who finished with 40 assists. A Rebel error forced coach Joe Getzin to take a timeout when down 21-16. Little posted two more kills for the Tigers, and Henning notched another as Missouri took the set off a Kellie Goss hitting error.
Missouri opened up the third set slowly as well, but Wayne Kreklow said he wasn't dissatisfied with Ole Miss hanging around.
“If I had my wish, we’d be able to (jump on teams) all the time,” he said. “Once we kind of get into league play, there’s only good teams and there’s great teams. There are no bad teams. So you can’t expect when you go out and play that you’re just going to jump on somebody and roll.”
After another Rebel timeout, Molly Kreklow’s setter-dump, a Henning kill and an illegal touch by Ole Miss put the Tigers ahead by six, a number the Rebels would only marginally decrease through the set’s remainder.
Leading 23-18 later in the set, Peltier’s roll shot fell at the 10-foot line to give Missouri the match point, and Molly Kreklow’s solo block on Kara Morgan gave Missouri the game 25-18.
The Tigers travel to Gainesville, Fla., on Friday to take on the No. 13 Gators for a rematch of last season’s NCAA tournament contest that sent Missouri home in the first round.