Missouri volleyball falls to Kentucky despite strong starts in each set

Kylie Deberg produced her fourth 20-plus kill game of the season.
Junior Kylie Deberg prepares for a kill during the 2019 Tiger Invitational at Hearnes Center. Andrew Moore

No. 19 Missouri (8-3, 0-1) dropped its Southeastern Conference opener to No. 16 Kentucky (9-4, 2-0) in straight sets.

The Tigers had strong starts in all three sets, but were not able to stop Kentucky from running up the score late in the sets.

“I thought we were playing good volleyball for 75% of the set, but once we got to 20 points we started doing things that were erratic,” coach Joshua Taylor said. “We started shanking balls and setting out of system sets. You can’t do that against a good team like Kentucky.”

Mental errors proved to be the difference, as the Tigers were not able to recover after a few net violations were called in later sets.

“I think our errors were more mental than anything else,” redshirt sophomore Andrea Fuentes said. “Maybe they have a little bit more experience with that mental aspect of the game. Besides that, I think we’re just as good as them.”

Missouri started out strong in the first set with a 20-16 lead. Kentucky started to fight back to tie the set at 20 and then 24. With set point for the Tigers up 25-24, a kill from junior Kylie Deberg was called back because the referees said the ball had not crossed the neutral zone. Kentucky went on to win the set 29-27.

“It was a big momentum killer and what’s frustrating for me is it shouldn’t be,” Taylor said. “Our tendency right now is when things don’t go our way, we’re not as tough as we need to be, to be effective as a team. So, when that happened, Kentucky saw an opportunity to take over emotionally and they did.”

The second set started off back-and-forth with seven ties. With the set tied at 20, Kentucky went on a 4-0 run. Missouri fought back with a 3-0 run, but a kill from sophomore Alli Stumler gave the Wildcats a 25-23 win. The Wildcat offense hit a match-high .349 in the set.

The Tigers bounced back to take a 17-13 lead in the third set. Kentucky went on a 7-0 run to comeback from the deficit, eventually winning 25-21.

Missouri hit .187 in the match, led by Deberg with 22 kills. Fuentes recorded 35 assists and 13 digs for the Tigers.

“I think it was a combination of trying to do too much and be perfect and when you do that, you start making errors,” Taylor said. “When you give a team like Kentucky free points, especially towards the end of the set, it doesn’t matter if they’re down or they’re ahead, they’re going to beat you.”

The Tigers will head to Baton Rouge, Louisiana as they look for their first SEC win of the season against LSU on Wednesday.

Edited by Emily Leiker | eleiker@themaneater.com

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