When No. 25 Missouri (21-0, 5-0 SEC) hosted Alabama (14-5, 2-3) in a Southeastern Conference showdown Sunday afternoon, the Tigers weren’t themselves.
Thanks to a few Alabama errors, Missouri stole the first set, but the Crimson Tide took the second set amidst a slew of Missouri service and hitting errors. In the third set, Alabama sprinted out to a 13-7 lead.
That’s when freshman utility Carly Kan heated up.
“As the sets just kept going, I kept thinking to myself, ‘I gotta step it up. I gotta step it up,’” Kan said. “I was losing confidence in the first and second (sets), but I knew I had to do this for my team, so I went into the game with that mindset.”
Kan was integral in Missouri’s 18-7 run to win the set and eventually the match (25-22, 22-25, 25-20, 25-17). Kan earned four of five Missouri points in the third-set run, finishing the match with a game and career-high 19 kills.
“I see the pattern with Carly. The longer the match goes, the better she gets,” coach Wayne Kreklow said. “It’s like there’s some magic number, like after the fifteenth or sixteenth pass she settles in, and all of a sudden she’s passing at a really high level.”
Missouri’s offense was awkward in the first two sets, struggling with containing Alabama’s freshman superstar Krystal Rivers (15 kills). But the Tigers’ attacking straightened out behind 12 total team blocks.
“I think we put Molly (Kreklow) in better positions,” coach Kreklow said. “We’re just trying to move things around, and as the ball control got a little bit better, we were able to do that more successfully.”
Molly Kreklow tallied a match-high 49 assists, aiding junior blocker Whitney Little in her offensive efforts.
“I think it definitely helps us, as a team, to push through,” said Little, who had 12 kills and nine block assists. “I think was a great opener for the next couple of games that will happen.”
Missouri can extend its winning streak against SEC rivals Georgia (Friday, Oct. 18) and No. 2 Florida (Sunday, Oct. 20). The Tigers will have good odds at continuing the storybook opening if they shake their early-match errors that have plagued them in recent matches.
“When we came back here (after the second set), we knew that this was not us, this was not Missouri, this was not how we played,” Kan said. “We just knew that we had to go out there and be us.”