After her college debut against South Dakota Friday morning, Carly Kan just needed to warm up.
“I had more nerves going into the first match today,” said the freshman, who went 8-for-18 in kills against the Coyotes. “I warmed up the arm in the (second) game.”
Kan, who was recruited to Missouri as a defensive anchor, unloaded on Pittsburgh from the start of her second match. She was perfect in kills until the end of the second set, finishing the match with 15-for-17 kills and 5 digs.
“It’s not just one thing with Carly,” said coach Wayne Kreklow. “She was swinging well tonight, but it’s the sum total of the little things she does. It’s her serve, it’s her pass, it’s her small balls on defense, it’s her swing. She’s probably the second best at…everything.”
The rest of Missouri’s offense was charged by senior Lisa Henning, who tallied 18 kills en route to the smooth victory (25-13, 23-25, 25-14, 25-13). The offense was so efficient that Missouri broke its school record in hitting percentage for a four-set match, with .458, the best in any match since 2007.
Missouri commanded the match from the beginning, sprinting to a 6-1 lead. The Panthers called a pair of timeouts in the set to catch breath and return to the court and scourge up a few consecutive points. But the Tigers quickly returned to their offensive feast, due to keen ball control led by senior Molly Kreklow (51 assists).
“I was really pleased today with Lisa and Molly,” coach Kreklow said. “What those guys have done a great job at, I think, is getting better at the little things they had trouble with last year. Today, I was really pleased with (their) Molly’s defense.”
Missouri’s fluid offense only sputtered once, as its ball control wavered in the second set. Pittsburgh reigned supreme in a set that had 12 ties and four lead changes.
“I thought (in) game two, we dropped off a bit,” he said. “In the game that they won, they served tougher than they did, (and) they passed better.”
The Tigers’ offense steadied for the remainder of the game, and it was buoyed by impenetrable defense and precise passing, something junior libero Sarah Meister says was pertinent to dissolving last year’s ghosts.
“I think we went out there with a lot more confidence,” said Meister (11 digs). “We have so much depth … when everyone comes in, they do their job, and that’s what saves us.”
Missouri, who leads the tournament, concludes its play on Saturday, when it battles Idaho State (1-1) at noon and Arkansas State (0-2) at 4 p.m. Kreklow says he knows his team can win the tournament for the sixth time in seven years, as long as it continues its offensive prowess.
“The biggest challenge with these things is always to be able to come back the next day and redial it again,” he said. “That’s going to be a big challenge, is can we come back, refocus, and really come back to work again.”