Young Missouri volleyball team looks to set tone for season with opening SEC victory

The unranked Tigers defeated No. 25 Alabama in their first match of the season against a ranked opponent.
Photos courtesy of MU Athletics MU Athletics

Alabama was not just Missouri’s first SEC opponent of the season, but also the first ranked opponent that the Tigers faced in 2018. The No. 25 Crimson Tide was 12-1 heading into Wednesday’s match against Missouri, where the Tigers defeated Alabama 3-0 after a back-and-forth 28-26 third set.

“Obviously coming out with the win in your first game is a good thing to have underneath your belt,” sophomore Leketor Member-Meneh said. “It doesn’t matter if we came out with a win and lose every other game. We still have to keep our mindset strong, keep our practicing strong, keep pushing ourselves to be the best we can be in order to beat the rest of the teams.”

In their first collegiate seasons, redshirt freshmen setters Andrea Fuentes and Jaden Newsome have a lot of work ahead in figuring out how to run the Missouri offense.

“[Fuentes and Newsome] are carrying a big load because they’re the quarterbacks,” coach Wayne Kreklow said. “I mean everything goes through them, so they are making decisions, they are having to chase balls down.”

Against the Crimson Tide, Fuentes and Newsome settled into their roles and were able to start making some important decisions on the court by trusting in their hitters.

“They obviously had their fair share of mistakes like anybody else, but I thought Andrea down the stretch really really made some gutsy sets to Alyssa Munlyn in transition that scored for us down the stretch,” Kreklow said. “It was there, but they were not easy, and that takes a lot of guts to be able to do that as a setter in that situation.”

With two new setters come adjustments that need to be made with the hitters surrounding them. Sophomore middle blocker Tyanna Omazic has filled the middle blocker role of Kayla Caffey, and the setters are still adjusting to her as a hitter.

“We need to keep working at getting the ball to Tyanna more when she is in the front row,” Kreklow said. “I think our setters aren’t as confident right now with her as they are with Alyssa mainly because [Omazic] is going behind a lot, so for a setter that’s hard because I can’t see what is back there. I think we are going to keep working hard at doing that because I think she has got the potential to be a big time attacker, but we just were not there yet.”

As the young Tigers continue to grow and adjust, this ranked victory shows the potential that the team has down the road.

“I feel like [the win over Alabama] shows how much potential we have as a team,” sophomore Dariana Hollingsworth said. “We are a young team, and we can carry this for many years. Winning this SEC opener against a team that is ranked No. 25 in the coaches AVCA poll, I feel like that shows how much potential we have and how much we’re gonna grow this season.”

Missouri currently has two other top-25 teams (no. 11 Florida and no. 20 Kentucky) on their schedule.

“We have multiple good teams in this conference now and a lot of them are ranked higher than we are,” Member-Meneh said. “We are constantly the underdog, so we are just going to try to continue to give it everything we got whenever we step on that court, whether it’s home or away.”

Edited by Bennett Durando |

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