Missouri looks to build off of momentum

Missouri heads to Utah for a weekend invitational.

The Missouri volleyball team thrived in its first test of the season, winning three matches to claim the Tiger Invitational at the Hearnes Center. The Tiger's next test will include their first ranked opponent of the season as the team heads west for the Utah Valley University Invitational.

Missouri will have one match today against Washington State and two more Saturday.

Saturday's schedule will test the Tigers with a match against host Utah Valley at 1 p.m. and a second against No. 17 Utah at 5:30 p.m. The short time between the two matches increases the importance of having a high level of depth.

Coach Wayne Kreklow said he was happy with the depth his team showed last weekend and will look for that to factor into this weekend's matches.

"The pre-conference tournaments are always tough because that's really asking a lot to play two matches in one day," Kreklow said. "One of our strengths is in depth right now and we want to put ourselves in a position where we can use that."

Junior outside hitter Julianna Klein also recognized the toll pre-conference tournaments can take on players. "With the three-day tournament like that, regardless of your conditioning, everyone is going to start feeling fatigued," Klein said.

As for the Tiger lineup, Kreklow believes he is very close to finding a rotation that could prove permanent as the season progresses.

The lineup will not be changed heading into this weekend with Klein and Tiger Invitational MVP junior Rosa Medrano solidifying their spots as starting outside hitters, junior Catie Wilson and sophomore Brittney Brimmage filling the role of middle blocker and senior Lei Wang-Francisco playing setter.

Junior libero Caitlyn Vann will be looking to lead the team in digs and expects a lot from the team if they can step up their play at the net to help Medrano.

"I think a lot of our offense was based around Rosa last weekend, and if everyone is getting double digit kills, we should be unstoppable," Vann said.

Focus is another aspect the team must address if they want to succeed in this tournament and the rest of the season.

"At one point I stopped and said, 'You finished game one, now we've got to start game two,'" Kreklow said. "It's the time in between that we lose our focus and we have to get faster at that."

Missouri felt pressure during the Tiger Invitational against Texas State and BYU, keeping the match close because of the number of errors the Tigers committed on serves as well as at the net.

The goals are set high for the squad as they head west for their first matches away from the Hearnes Center, but the team is still focused on gaining the respect of teams around the nation.

"It's a good time to go out and show what we're made of," Klein said. "It's an even higher level of competition and we hope to go out and get some respect around the country."

Vann showed the same attitude toward this weekend's tournament.

"Obviously, I want to go 3-0 but a lot of it will be about getting respect and we just want to make our mark this weekend," Vann said.

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