Wilson shines as Tigers sweep opening day

Armed with a batch of cookies, the freshman led the team with 23 kills on Friday.

After the program’s most successful decade in history, the Missouri volleyball team began the 2011 season last night at the Hearnes Center with the annual Tiger Invitational. And by the end of the first day’s action, there were cookies.

Emily Wilson, one of the seven freshmen on the Big 12’s youngest team, was carrying a container full of cookies her mother baked for the team after the 3-0 decision over Idaho State. It was the second sweep of the day, coming after the team’s dominating performance over Binghamton earlier in the afternoon.

It capped the end of a jaw-dropping showcase for Wilson, the start of a collegiate career that has the potential to be special.

Wilson combined for a team-high 23 kills on the day with only one error. Against Idaho State, she led all players with 13 kills and 15 points. Standing at 6' 3" as an outside hitter, her presence was a constant issue for the Bengals.

“I thought Emily had a monster game,” coach Wayne Kreklow said. “I was really pleased. What I’m happy with more than anything is that she’s working hard at it. She’s just doing a phenomenal job.”

Wilson, flashing a smile that seemed to not leave her face from the opening serve, was just as pleased with her coach after her regular season debut.

“I feel like I performed well and did what I needed to do for this team to be successful,” she said. “Playing with all these girls, there’s not a better feeling. It’s just awesome. I really admire [my teammates]. They’re my role models.”

Molly Kreklow had a productive start to the season after being named the American Volleyball Coaches Association Central Region Freshman of the Year last season. The team’s quarterbacking setter leads the tournament with a staggering total 73 assists and is putting herself in a position to claim the tournament MVP after doing so last year.

One of her favorite options of the day was fellow sophomore Lisa Henning, who tallied 41 points to lead her team.

“After the postseason, I felt really connected with Molly,” Henning said. “And after practices I feel like there’s no stopping us, like we could do this with our eyes closed.”

Although playing alongside 10 other underclassmen, Henning feels she needed to bring a bigger role to the team for the tournament.

“The coaches are always like, you should know better,” she said. “I know I should. I went from being the youngest on the team to now one of the oldest.”

The oldest, seniors Brittney Brimmage and Priscilla Armendariz, performed like veterans. Brimmage had opponents scrambling to answer and Armendariz performed smoothly in the backcourt as libero, collecting 24 digs on the day.

Although nerves affected his group of freshmen early in both games today, Kreklow said he was pleased with how his freshmen reacted to their first college game experience. Whitney Little and Katie O’Brien played roles in the attack, while Sarah Meister and Jade Hayes were active in defense.

The team hit .432 on the day while impressively limiting its opponents to a .047 percentage.

“I was fairly pleased overall,” Kreklow said. “It was the first time a lot of kids got out there in their first collegiate situation, so you don’t know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised. I felt [the freshmen] did a really good job.”

With the Tigers taking on Tulane and North Dakota State on Saturday, Kreklow said challenges await his team.

“We talk about focus, handling things when things aren’t going well,” he said. “You always have to temper [confidence] a little bit.”

But for now, the taste is sweet.

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