Month of road tournaments finally culminates at home for Missouri volleyball

After almost a month of playing solely road games, the Tigers returned to Hearnes Center for three games at the Mizzou Invitational.
Missouri’s Alyssa Munlyn celebrates a successful save during the third set of a match against Drake on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. Munlyn, originally from Suwanee, GA, was SEC Freshman of the Year in 2015.

Elementary school children from around Columbia filed into Hearnes Center, eager to be out of the classroom. The Missouri cheerleaders handed out yellow cardstock signs to each child which, in big block letters, said “Point Mizzou,” and not long after, the stands were engulfed in a sea of yellow signs being frantically waved back and forth like flags.

As the minutes to game time dwindled and the Missouri volleyball team warmed up on the court, the excitement only grew. The children were not the only people in the arena who were excited for the Tigers’ home opener on Friday against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. For the team, this was a homecoming of sorts; the opportunity to play on their home court, in front of their home fans for the first time in over a month.

“[At Hearnes Center] you can soak it all in,” senior Alyssa Munlyn said. “Being on the road you’re kind of like, ‘This is it, this is our huddle.’ We’re here, [we want to] soak in all the love and all the energy, and use that to our advantage.”

The team utilized their home court advantage. Aided by the deafening screams of hundreds of children, the Tigers beat the Islanders in straight sets in their first match of three at home this weekend, 25-16, 25-23 and 25-17.

“There would be times where I couldn’t hear myself think,” Munlyn said.

Playing an early game in front of mostly children also acted as a way to work out any nerves that the players might have had prior to the first home match.

“Half the team has never [played] here before, so it was good to get [this game] under our belt,” coach Wayne Kreklow said.

Missouri opened its season with three consecutive weekends of away games, traveling to Harrisonburg, Virginia, San Juan, Puerto Rico and Towson, Maryland. Because each weekend the games began on Fridays, the team traveled on Thursdays and therefore lost a day of practice each week.

With three home games for this weekend’s Mizzou Invitational, the team did not have to cut the week of preparation short.

“From a coaching standpoint, the best part of [playing at home] is that we were actually here during the week to practice,” Kreklow said.

Missouri will continue its homestand on Wednesday as it opens SEC play against Alabama, which, with no travel, affords the team time to work on the areas of their game that could be improved.

“We have to continue to improve with our ball control and our offense,” Kreklow said. “We’ve got to be able to attack, and do it consistently.”

Edited by Bennett Durando | bdurando@themaneater.com

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