Coach Wayne Kreklow walked into a stunned locker room Saturday afternoon.
After the Missouri volleyball team’s first regular season loss in over a calendar year, the coach had one question for his team: “How will you respond?”
Entering Saturday’s second match, the Tigers had won 35 straight regular season contests. But a three-set sweep by Northwestern State ended that streak in sudden and stunning fashion.
“There were a lot of emotions (in the locker room),” Kreklow said. “And as a group we were expecting to do better than that. There were a lot of questions, and some doubt and anxiety.”
The attitude quickly shifted. Questions about performance turned into questions on how to respond. Doubt turned into motivation. Anxiety turned into energy. In an unfamiliar situation for the young team, Kreklow adjusted the mindset.
“That was really important for him to shift our focus and help us get ready for that next game,” sophomore defensive specialist Carly Kan said.
Four hours after the loss, the Tigers bounced back with a win against North Texas.
“We talked about it then, and then we dropped it and nobody talked about it again,” senior middle blocker Whitney Little said. “It kind of signified the fact that one loss is OK. It’s going to happen.”
The doubleheader gave Mizzou a chance to immediately bounce back against a solid North Texas team later that night. In one afternoon, the team processed the loss, then came out and battled out a five-set win.
“The way we came back from a devastating loss showed that this group has a lot of character,” Kreklow said.
Losing is never a good thing, but in terms of how and when the Tigers lost, it was a learning experience for the young team. The immediacy of the next match gave no time to dwell on a disappointing outcome earlier in the afternoon.
“We were able to bounce back so quickly so everybody could forget about it and move on,” Little said. “Honestly, I think it’s great experience for us to have that.”
The loss happening so early in the season may also be beneficial for a team on which only five players had ever even lost a regular season match. The simple mindset was universal throughout the whole team: losing sucks. Now, knowing that feeling, the Tigers hope to use that to their advantage.
“It’s almost a good thing that we lost early on so we don’t always talk about how we shouldn’t lose,” Little said. “We know how that feels so we don’t want to feel that ever again.”
Little said it also lifted a burden off the shoulders of the younger players expecting to reproduce another 2013 season.
“Some girls felt like they had that pressure that we had to have another 35-1 season. We didn’t,” Little said. “It’s just a lot of pressure off everyone.”