Tigers notch early wins in Denver Pioneer Classic

The victories were the first time Missouri won without cleanly sweeping their opponent in three sets.

The Missouri volleyball team continued its schedule away from home after last weekend's Blue Raider Bash tournament championship in Murfreesboro, Tenn. The Tigers traveled to Denver and began play in the Pioneer Classic on Friday and this time, there were road bumps.

For the first time all season, the Tigers picked up wins without cleanly sweeping their opponent in three sets. Drake (2-6) pushed the Tigers into a fourth set and Texas-San Antonio (2-5) tested the team in its first five-set match of the season.

Though the Tigers added two more wins to their impressive 10-1 season record, the day revealed inconsistency.

The team rolled in the first set of the day against Drake, the alma mater of Missouri coach Wayne Kreklow, who holds a place in the school's Athletic Hall of Fame. The Tigers accented the 25-13 set win with a .493 hitting percentage. The game then became an error-filled frenzy for the Bulldogs. The Tigers didn't fare much better, finishing with a season-high of 22 errors.

Amid a shaky scoring assault, Molly Kreklow remained as consistent as ever. The sophomore setter racked up 44 assists and contributed five digs, two kills and four blocks in the match. Freshman outside hitter Katie O'Brien tallied a career-best 10 kills.

Senior libero Priscilla Armendariz and freshman defender Jade Hayes anchored a defense that held the Bulldogs to .061 hitting. The two combined for 25 digs on the match.

UT-San Antonio provided the Tigers' most heated challenge of the season, next to the loss to Middle Tennessee last weekend.

The Tigers set the momentum early in the first two sets, capping each in 25-22 decisions. Sophomore Lisa Henning and freshman Emily Wilson commanded the attack, combining on 17 kills before halftime despite the team hitting just .246.

The Roadrunners came out of the locker room resurgent. The Tigers fell in the next two sets and were forced into a fifth set for the first time since Dec. 3 when the team met Northern Iowa in last year's NCAA Tournament.

The Roadrunners jumped ahead early on the Tigers, placing Missouri in a 6-2 deficit. MU rallied back at 11-11. A frantic sequence of trading points followed before Henning rose above the right side of the net to deliver the game's final kill.

Henning finished the game with 15 kills and a career-best 14 digs, her second double-double of the season. Molly Kreklow provided 44 assists and 11 digs in the contest, marking her first double-double of the season.

The Tigers will face UC-Davis and Denver on Saturday. Wins in both games would lift the team to its third tournament championship in three weeks.

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