When a scrappy, winless Arkansas State team looked to play spoiler against Missouri (4-0, 0-0 Southeastern Conference) in Saturday’s Tiger Invitational finale, the Tigers turned to bombs.
“I think it’s really important,” said junior Whitney Little. “It’s always been a thing for us, but it’s kind of a new thing because of all the new people we can use.”
Missouri, which had a surmountable height advantage against the versatile Arkansas State squad, went to more than one weapon to blow up the Red Wolves’ offense. In addition to the usual option of senior Lisa Henning (13 kills), senior Molly Kreklow and company set to Little (7), junior Emily Wilson (12), and freshman Carly Kan (11).
“(Spreading kills) was something that we need to continue to try to work on,” coach Wayne Kreklow said. “I was pleased.”
The Tigers turned to their offense when the rally-laden match evened in the thick of each set (there were five ties in each of the first two sets). The high-octane effort resulted in a clean 3-0 victory (25-18, 25-19, 25-16) to win the Tiger Invitational.
“I was really pleased with what I saw, not only from a performance standpoint, but from an emotional and personality standpoint,” Kreklow said.
Missouri won 12 of 13 sets in the tournament, as it won its season-opening tournament for the sixth time in seven years (second place in 2012). Kreklow attributes his team’s performance to consistence in ball control and serving.
“At the end of the day, the game of volleyball comes down to serving and passing,” Kreklow said. “That was one area I felt like we really improved ourselves in.”
Behind the play of her star senior teammates, Kan lit the Missouri team with her dynamic performances, proving she could hold her weight as a freshman starter.
“I think, overall, (Kan’s performance) was fantastic,” Kreklow said. “Everything she does (is) just tremendous for a freshman.”
The victory makes Missouri undefeated to begin the season. It’s exactly the type of start the team needed after last year’s disappointing debut, Little said.
“It’s really setting a tone for our season,” she said. “I think it really shows everyone out there that, this year we’re ready to show what we’re about."