Missouri volleyball basks amid “bells and whistles” in Mizzou Arena debut

Playing for the first time at Mizzou Arena, the Tigers beat the South Carolina Gamecocks in straight sets.
Mizzou Arena with an unfamiliar touch: a volleyball net for the Tigers' match against South Carolina, Oct. 6, 2018.

It was a familiar game in a not so familiar place for Missouri volleyball Friday night.

Since the Tigers’ home Hearnes Center flooded in late September, their home games have been moved to Mizzou Arena until the event floor is replaced.

In their inaugural game in that temporary home, the Tigers, wearing yellow for the first time at home this season, swept South Carolina to extend their home win streak to five games. It was a much needed win for Missouri (13-4, 3-2 SEC), who bounced back from consecutive losses at Tennessee and at No. 18 Kentucky last weekend. The team is also now 11-2 when it wins the first set.

“I don’t think there’s any substitute to getting off to a good start,” Kreklow said. “Especially when you’re at home, you want to get that first win … it sets the tone right away. Coming out ready to go is important, but you also have to follow up in the second game. We did a nice job of not making a lot of errors [in the second set].”

In front of a weekend crowd of 2,032, the Tigers showed that Mizzou Arena is just as much a home as Hearnes Center despite some members of the team not having been in the arena until the day before the match.

That includes sophomore transfer Kylie Deberg, who said she never was taken to Mizzou Arena when touring MU after she transferred.

One notable difference between Hearnes Center and Mizzou Arena for the team was the “bells and whistles,” as multiple people put it after the game.

“It’s a big arena, a nice [big]screen,” senior Alyssa Munlyn said. “We were like, ‘Wow we could see our face on the scoreboard.’”

Though the venue doesn’t have a playing floor designed for volleyball – there aren’t out-of-bounds lines or holes to place the poles for the net – Mizzou Arena was fitted for its new tenants. A free standing net held by podiums on either side was set up, and white tape was placed on the floor as court lines.

In addition to being evicted from their accustomed court for games, the Tigers’ practices during the week have moved to the adjacent Hearnes Fieldhouse. A portable floor was brought in and placed on top of the indoor track as a short-term fix.

There continues to be no timeline for the repairs at Hearnes Center, but the athletic department is hopeful that the team will be able to play at Hearnes Center again this season. In the meantime, there is not an issue being left unattended to at Hearnes.

“We’re going to try to fix as much as we can to make sure it’s right,” said deputy athletic director Tim Hickman. “We’re going to put a [playing] floor back and we want to make sure [the ground] is in a condition that it won’t damage the new floor.”

As for the players, the change of scenery presented its challenges, but Mizzou Arena still felt like home. The biggest challenge: forgetting the team speakers in the Hearnes Center locker room.

“The setters [redshirt freshmen Andrea Fuentes and Jaden Newsome] ran to get the speakers after serve and pass,” Munlyn said. “They saved the day.”

Munlyn continued to discuss how Mizzou Arena was no different than Hearnes Center.

“When the whole crowd is roaring for you, it’s much different than hearing silence [at away games],” she said. “We have all the energy and everyone is rooting for us.”

The Tigers will play their second home game of the weekend at Mizzou Arena on Sunday against rival Arkansas at 1:30 p.m. Central Standard Time.

Edited by Bennett Durando | bdurando@themaneater.com

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