Three takeaways from Missouri volleyball’s Black and Gold Scrimmage

Friday’s exhibition highlighted developing chemistry, injury cover for the middle blocker position and areas left for improvement before the season starts.
Missouri volleyball players practice in preparation for the 2018 season at Hearnes Center.

Missouri volleyball played its annual Black & Gold Scrimmage on Friday, Aug. 17 at Hearnes Center in a tune-up for the 2018 season that starts in a week.

Head coach Wayne Kreklow enjoyed watching his team play in a more competitive environment in front of a home crowd of almost 1,500.

“I felt a little bit better after tonight,” Kreklow said. “I was starting to wonder in practice a little bit, but we needed this as a group because we had been through almost two weeks of preseason practice and it starts to drag. Mentally, physically, everybody gets worn down, so to come out here in front of people was good. I was pleasantly surprised because I saw I little bit more life out of them than what I’ve seen the last few days of practice.”

Here are three takeaways from the 2018 curtain-raiser:

Team chemistry improving as depth chart takes shape

Half of the squad had its first-ever official practice with Missouri just two weeks ago, so team chemistry was one of the question marks for the Tigers heading into the 2018 season.

You wouldn’t have known that based on Friday’s scrimmage.

“It’s improved so much,” sophomore Kylie Deberg said. “Over the summer we were kind of iffy with each other, but we’ve all clicked really well and it’s just all gone really well.”

With so many new pieces to the puzzle this season, it’s important that the players strike up connections early on, and the exhibition match was full of effective combinations. Setters Andrea Fuentes and Jaden Newsome had 25 and 24 assists, respectively, while every hitter tallied at least three kills.

However, having so many attacking options means that the competition for playing time will be fierce once the season starts.

Deberg made a strong argument for a starting place in the lineup with her performance on Friday, posting a team-high 16 kills on a .303 hitting percentage. But the 6-foot-4 outside hitter knows that she will have to keep performing at that level to earn significant time.

“It’s all up in the air because everyone’s just really good,” Deberg said. “So we always have to prove that we want to be over there and that we’re the best.”

Middle hitters prepare to replace injured Caffey

Redshirt sophomore middle blocker Kayla Caffey sat out the scrimmage due to a leg injury. Caffey finished top five in the SEC for blocks last season, totaling 130.

With Caffey potentially on the bench for the start of the season and longer, freshman Brynn Paumen and sophomore Tyanna Omazic had the opportunity to prove themselves throughout the scrimmage.

Paumen, the team’s only true freshman, hit .667 on the night.

“I think Brynn has made a lot of progress in just two weeks,” Kreklow said. “She can get a lot better at a lot of little things.”

Omazic, a transfer from Illinois, had 85 blocks and 114 kills for the Illini last season.

“Tyanna has obviously got a little bit more advantage in terms of experience, playing about half the season at Illinois last year,” Kreklow said. “She is just super fast and athletic. I think right now she does so much off one foot behind the setter. That’s usually one of the harder things to try to work between those two, a setter and a middle that does that, so I think it will take a little bit of time, but I saw some flashes of that.”

With Caffey’s status for the beginning of the season still in question, Kreklow is prepared to utilize his other middle hitters.

“I think we are going to be okay there if Kayla is going to be out for an extended period,” he said.

Still clean-up work to be done

Despite the impressive play, there are still small improvements that need to be made prior to the start of the season. The team had a total of 24 errors through the three sets.

“We’ve gotta work on eliminating a lot of the unforced errors,” Kreklow said. “Some of that is because we were in front of people and we were pushing the envelope, but I think we’ll continue to work with our serving and passing game in that regard.”

The season will begin on Aug. 24 at the James Madison Invitational in Harrisonburg, Virginia against Delaware State.

Edited by Bennett Durando |

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