Volleyball overcomes struggles for home victory

The three-set win wasn't always smooth sailing for Missouri.
Junior hitter Paola Ampudia spikes the ball over Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville junior middle hitter Karie Downing on Saturday at the Hearnes Center. The Tigers beat the Cougars 3-0.

Despite execution problems throughout the match, the Missouri volleyball team (15-9, 6-6 Big 12) finished off its final non-conference opponent of the season, Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville (1-23) in three straight sets (25-16, 25-21, 25-21).

The Cougars showed promise throughout the match as they attacked the net and caught the Tigers off guard.

"Something like this is always a mixed bag," coach Wayne Kreklow said. "You would hope when you have a match like this, you come out and execute but we didn't do that."

Missouri had a number of problems as it circulated different players in the mix. Passing problems resulted in balls dropping to the floor because of communication issues.

Before being replaced by freshman setter Kate Harris, senior setter Lei Wang-Francisco varied the attack, dishing out assists to all angles. That broke up the Cougars' blocking team, opening up the opportunity for a kill.

When Harris replaced Wang-Francisco, she started off slow before finishing with 16 assists.

"It's a tough spot to be in," Kreklow said. "When you don't get a lot of reps in a game-like situation, it's tough to come into a game like that. We wanted her to be comfortable."

Harris has played in 15 sets this season, dishing out 76 total assists.

She said it was all about coming onto the floor and feeling comfortable.

"As the game went on, I felt more like myself out there," Harris said. "At the beginning it took a while to get in the rhythm of things."

With the score 10-8 in Missouri's favor, junior outside hitter Julianna Klein drilled a kill in the middle of the SIUE defense.

From there the Tigers pulled away with a 15-5 run before conceding three chances at set point. Klein was able to finish off the set with a well-placed kill to the right corner of the Cougar defense.

Junior outside hitter Paola Ampudia was effective on the attack coming from the backline, a tactic Kreklow has employed since the beginning of the Big 12 schedule.

Klein got her first start in six matches after battling mononucleosis. She and Ampudia tied for team high kills with nine.

"Coming off a couple weeks off, I'm still getting back in the groove of things," Klein said. "I can definitely do better and getting back into practice this week, I want to get back in the groove of things."

Missouri pulled ahead early in the second set with an accurate attack and few mistakes. But a 9-3 lead quickly turned around as SIUE battled back to tie up the score at 14.

The errors mounted and passing became a problem for the Tigers. The backline was stuck on its heels as the Cougars formed a solid attack at the net, but with a few solid attacks, Missouri closed out the set 25-21 on a kill from sophomore outside hitter and middle blocker Brittney Brimmage.

The Tigers jumped to a 4-1 lead early in the third set thanks to two aces from Klein. Attack errors became a theme as the outside hitters began losing control of their swings.

"I'm glad we won the match but I'm really disappointed how we did it," Kreklow said.

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