Munlyn and Caffey lead Mizzou volleyball’s elite blocking team

Mizzou leads the SEC and is third in the NCAA in total blocks.
Maneater File Photo

With Southeastern Conference play underway, the Missouri volleyball team is still growing into the 2017 season. Ranked No. 19 in the nation in the AVCA Coaches Preseason Top 25 poll, the defending SEC champions have struggled thus far, earning just 10 wins in 17 games. With new faces receiving playing time, many aspects of the team are still developing. However, there is one area in which the Tigers have excelled.

Mizzou’s 204.5 total blocks this season currently lead the SEC and ranks the Tigers third in the nation. Its 3.01 blocks per set has the Tigers second in the SEC and 12th in the nation.

The strong numbers up front have come primarily from middle blockers Alyssa Munlyn and Kayla Caffey, who lived up to their position titles as they recorded a combined total of 167 blocks and average 2.47 blocks per set together this year.

Although personal glory is not the pair’s ultimate goal this season, their performances and accomplishments leave much to celebrate.

“I don’t really think about stats too much,” Munlyn said. “But I have worked so hard, and I take pride in that. Stopping someone from doing what they want to do is the best feeling for me.”

Blocking is one of the most important aspects of volleyball, according to Munlyn. When a blocker “roofs” an opponent (blocking the ball straight down for a kill), it can get the team and the crowd even more excited than a powerful spike.

“[Blocking is] the most momentum-changing thing you can do [on the court],” Munlyn said.

But being a blocker involves much more than just the highlight-reel, explosive plays that everyone remembers. It’s also important for blockers to have their hands up during every single hit in order to limit the angles and the amount of space open to the opposing hitter.

“It slows down the game,” Caffey said. “If you’re getting touches, everything is like a free ball so it just makes everyone else’s job easier.”

Munlyn, a junior, is continuing to build on an already established blocking career for Mizzou in 2017; she finished each of her first two seasons as a Tiger ranked in the top 40 in the NCAA in total blocks. In her freshman and sophomore seasons, Munlyn averaged an impressive 1.16 and 1.25 blocks per set, respectively, and she has seen a significant increase in production this year.

Munlyn’s 108 total blocks this season leads the SEC and is second best in the NCAA, while her 1.59 blocks per set ranks second best in the SEC and sixth best in the NCAA.

She credits this improvement in her performance to the work she puts into blocking during practices.

“We have been working on discipline,” Munlyn said. “It’s just learning where to put our arms, and timing and stuff like that. Just doing all those little things really produces a good outcome.”

Unlike Munlyn, however, redshirt freshman Caffey did not start this season with a strong blocking legacy.

“I didn’t think of myself as a strong blocker when I came to play here,” Caffey said. “That’s where Alyssa and I were different; I thought of myself as more of an offensive middle and Alyssa was more well-rounded, but especially defensive. But I think that I am growing in that area because we hammer good blocking technique in practices.”

Caffey has focused primarily on watching the ball come out of the opposing setter’s hands and staying mentally attentive. The results have been a steady improvement in the weakest aspect of her game. Her 59 total blocks and .87 blocks per set are ranked sixth and 19th in the SEC, respectively.

During the season, Caffey and Munlyn spend a lot of time helping each other get better. In the locker room before matches, the two can be found game-planning and exchanging tips. Off the volleyball court, the two middles are best friends, which makes for a high level of chemistry on the court.

“We’re just genuinely happy for each other,” Caffey said. “Playing with her is so much fun when we are as close as we are.”

With Munlyn and Caffey each playing at the top of their games, the defense they provide will continue to be an intimidating force for Missouri and to opposing hitters. For the rest of the Tigers, the stability up at net will bring the team comfort.

Edited by Eli Lederman |

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