Volleyball still addressing problems before SEC play

The Tigers have committed 233 errors through 12 matches.
Cameron Thomas / Graphic Designer

A week ago, things looked pretty grim for the Missouri volleyball team.

A lot can change in a week.

Following a disappointing five-game homestand, the Tigers traveled to Idaho with a 4-4 record on the season, but after a successful 4-0 weekend at the Idaho Nike Invitational, things are looking uphill.

But with just two matches to go before heading into Southeastern Conference play, Mizzou still has issues to address. Mental mistakes have plagued the Tigers this season. They’re averaging 19.42 errors per match.

The team’s 233 errors in 12 games have already surpassed the halfway mark of the total 422 errors last season’s squad had in 36 matches. Missouri averaged 11.72 errors per match last year.

“We have a tendency to make critical mental mistakes,” coach Wayne Kreklow said. “Somebody forgets to be where they’re supposed to be, somebody forgets to rotate and they put the ball away.”

Mizzou also dropped the first set in seven of its first eight matches. They ended that seven-set streak in Idaho, winning all four of their first sets in Idaho.

“We tend to take little breaks, mentally,” sophomore outside hitter Carly Kan said. “That’s really been hurting us lately. Everyone needs to be into the game at all times.”

The Tigers weren’t projected to repeat another 34-0 regular season like in 2013, but expectations were still high for Mizzou entering their third season in the SEC.

Missouri has had difficulty replacing All-American Molly Kreklow. The setter averaged 12.65 assists per set last year. She also accounted for 1,480 of the team’s total 1,704 assists all year.

The setting duo of freshman Ali Kreklow and sophomore Loxley Keala has been fairly inconsistent thus far in the season, though they do help the team average 49.5 assists per match.

In order to compete against higher competition in the SEC like No. 10 Florida and No. 16 Kentucky, Mizzou will have to find a go-to player who can perform at the same level on a nightly basis.

So far, Kreklow has had a difficult time identifying that player, but following her performance this weekend, senior Emily Wilson made a strong argument for herself. The outside hitter won the Idaho Nike Invitational’s MVP award after she posted 72 kills over four matches, averaging four per set.

The other difficulty thus far has been playing in system. Both serving and passing have been sloppy, prohibiting any offensive consistency.

Kreklow stressed the importance of these two aspects of the game, saying in order to put any pressure on the other team, Mizzou’s serving has to be strong and the passing has to be able to set up kill opportunities.

“If we’re not serving and passing well, we’re a very average team,” Kreklow said.

While there are handfuls of statistics or theories explaining Missouri’s early season woes, senior Whitney Little thinks there may be one thing missing: fun.

“We go through games where we’re not having fun and those are the games where we don’t play our best,” Little said. “If we figure out our game and our play, then the fun and energy will come back and everything will come back together.”

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