Missouri volleyball scrapes by Georgia, exposing its good, bad and ugly

The Tigers struggled on offense, hitting just .121 in four sets.
Designed by Corey Hadfield

On paper, No. 24 Missouri volleyball was not the better team on Sunday at Mizzou Arena.

Though Missouri (22-5) (12-3 SEC) ended the match victorious, it wasn’t pretty. The team hit just .121 for the match and committed 30 errors.

“It was ugly for both sides,” redshirt freshman Andrea Fuentes said. “It wasn’t our best match, it wasn’t their best match.”

The Tigers’ four-set win against the Georgia Bulldogs exposed the team’s struggles of late against its unranked Southeastern Conference opponents.

“There were multiple times today where things seemed pretty bleak,” coach Wayne Kreklow said after the game. “We weren’t playing well.”

Scraping by to win the first set after coming back from a 12-3 deficit to open the match, the Tigers didn’t have the same luck in the second set, dropping it 25-22. After another tough set win in the third, the team finally began to show why it is a top 25 program, completing the win with a 25-21 victory in the fourth set.

This has been a theme over the last stretch in which Missouri has gone 3-1, but struggled through the matches.

“In all three of those matches [excluding a sweep at Auburn], and this one in particular, Georgia did a nice job of keeping us out of system,” Kreklow said, referring to the team’s matches against Texas A&M and South Carolina, in addition to Georgia. “Today we were struggling all day long. If you’re not able to run an offense, it’s easy [for opponents] to make adjustments and counter that to stop it.”

What it comes down to is simply executing, and to Missouri’s credit, more often than not, it has executed well enough to win. The struggles haven’t been as much of a physical issue. With 27 games already under its belt this season, the daily grind becomes mentally taxing.

“At this time of year we cut way back in the amount of time we spend in practice, to try to keep people fresh,” Kreklow said. “Sometimes it’s tough mentally to get yourself going. It’s harder to get mentally up to this as opposed to physically.”

On Sunday, playing from behind, it took awhile, but it was the mindset that brought the team back into the match.

“We talked about looking for a way to shift the momentum,” Fuentes said. “We gathered our energy, and we said, ‘Let’s give it all we got, let’s empty the tank.’”

The Puerto Rican native continued to talk about the resilience of the team to be able to bear down and finish strong.

“Being able to pull out the win when you aren’t playing well is huge,” she said.

At the end of the day, whether the match is a quick, easy sweep or a four-set battle, a win is good, even if the means were bad and ugly to the end.

“It wasn’t a real good day for us, but I was happy we found a way to pull out the win,” Kreklow said.

Missouri will end its homestand against No. 23 Tennessee on Wednesday at 6 p.m. CST at Mizzou Arena.

Edited by Adam Cole | acole@themaneater.com

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