Missouri volleyball defeats Alabama in first match in 319 days

The Tigers overcame sloppy play and fatigue to win in four sets.
Missouri's volleyball team huddles up after a point during a season-opening win in Tuscaloosa, Ala. on Oct. 21, 2020. Alabama Athletics

After 319 offseason days, Missouri’s volleyball season finally began, and the No. 9 Tigers overcame sloppy play to defeat Alabama in four sets: 25-22, 25-19, 17-25 and 28-26.

Possibly due to an abnormal offseason, both teams started the game with multiple service errors. The miscommunication between both teams’ players was visible, leading to a total of 31 service errors throughout the game.

“With both teams tonight, you could definitely see some rust and fatigue set in, which is definitely expected with such a long layoff from actual game action,” coach Joshua Taylor said.

Even though first-game jitters loomed in the early sets, Missouri still came together and fought for the win in the fourth.

“I think we came out strong in sets one and two and did a lot of nice things,” Taylor said. “We had a little rut in set three and most of set four, but I was really pleased with the fight we showed and determination to close the match in extra points of the final set.”

The Tigers were able to hold a small lead through the first 20 points of the fourth set before Alabama started to punch back with points of its own. The score was dead even until Alabama started to slightly pull away with a score of 21-19.

Missouri came back after evening up the score and pushed the game to an intense final volley as Anna Dixon spiked the ball to secure the 3-1 match win.

“It was simply a great feeling to [be] back in the gym and playing actual matches again,” Taylor said. “This team has had a long and nontraditional offseason and I’m very proud of all their efforts with training and practice.”

In the first set, freshman Emily Brown and senior Kylie Deberg set the tone for the Tigers by generating digs on defense and pouncing on Alabama’s offensive mistakes. Despite the early jitters, Missouri was able to stay strong and make sure they had the upper hand.

Later in the match, however Alabama took advantage of Missouri’s slump and hammered in points on the worn-out Tigers. The combination of Alyiah Wells and Kennedy Muckelroy was too much to handle, combining for a total of 23 kills on 47 attempts with 3 blocks.

On the Missouri side, it was the Deberg show. She led Missouri with 22 kills and six blocks, surpassing 1,000 career kills with her performance.

Entering the season, the Tigers were ranked No. 9 in the AVCA Fall Top 15 Coaches Poll. They are the third highest-ranked Southeastern Conference, trailing Kentucky (No. 3) and Florida (No. 4).

The Tigers’ next game will be Thursday at 8:30 p.m. in Alabama, where Missouri will look to build off of its Game 1 win.

Edited by Jack Soble | jsoble@themaneater.com

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