Reviewin' & Previewin' - Women's Volleyball

We will get to the close of Mizzou's sporting season for 2008-2009 with outdoor track here in just a bit, but we will start off today with a continuation from last week.  Our reviewing/previewing brings us to the Fighting Kreklows and the Women's Volleyball squad.  Just as a review for those of you not around last year (and we are certainly glad you have found us now), I take the summer to hit up each Mizzou sport, with the exception of football and men's basketball.  It is time to bring some knowledge and attention to all of the other ones, and for those of you who have taken a special interest in any/all of these sports, PLEASE make it a point to comment and tell me where I am horrifically short of information and/or insight.  My goal has always been to give these sports as much time and press as I can since I have a special appreciation for student athletes.  Hopefully with more conversation, the more interest can be generated.  Anyway, the ladies had a down season last year to be sure, but there is potential to rebound, especially when you look at what we lost and what we return.  So with that, let's take a quick at the numbers, including who and what is departing the Tigers in 2009.

2008 - By the Numbers

2008 Record: 13-17  (home 6-5, road 3-10, neutral 4-2, conference 7-13, out of conference 6-4, 5-setters 2-5)
Seniors Lost: 0...as in ZERO
Hitting/Blocking/Assists Lost: see above
Starters Lost (starter=started more than half of games played): and again...just look up
2009 Roster Breakdown by Year: 4 seniors, 6 juniors, 4 sophomores, 2 freshmen

Hitting Percentage: .203 (.209 opponent)
Kills per Game: 12.28 (13.53 opponent)
Assists per Game: 11.41 (12.52  opponent)
Digs per Game: 16.20 (17.03 opponent)
Blocks per Game:  2.31 (2.20 opponent)

Some Helpful Abbreviations:

  • L - Libero (can go anywhere on the court)
  • OH - Outside Hitter (really left side hitters)
  • MB - Middle Blocker
  • RS - Right Side Hitters (also known as Opposite Hitters, but we already used "OH)
  • S - Setter
  • DS - Defensive Specialist
  • MH - Middle Hitter (not really a position in traditional volleyball terms)

2008 - In Review

Mizzou had kind of snuck back into the 2007 NCAA Tournament to keep their streak alive, but would lose a couple of BIG components in Na Yang and Tatum Ailes.  Still, with everyone else returning, including OH Julianna Klein from missing most of the 2007 season, optimism was high that the Tigers would reach their ninth straight NCAA Tournament.  The schedule was a little tough, as the Tigers would only play one of their first 12 games at home.  They went 2-1 in Utah and 2-1 in College Park, MD before only going 1-2 in a tough tournament in California, ending the pre-conference schedule at a slightly disappointing 5-4.  The conference season fired up and the Tigers stumbled out of the gate, falling at Norman and in their first home match to Baylor.  They would right the ship a bit, winning three in a row, with the last being a 5-set thriller against eventual NCAA tourney participant ISU.  Hope was high that at 8-6 overall, the worst was behind the Tigers and they finally had it in gear.  However, Mizzou hit a tough part of the schedule and lost four of their next five (with three against NCAA teams).  Still, if the previous year had proved anything, it was that a winning record overall and a .500 record in conference was sometimes good enough for the NCAA tournament.

After losing to Texas to finish that stretch, Mizzou was sitting at 9-10 and 3-6 in conference.  However, they were through much of the tough part of the schedule, and there was still time to get on a run.  That sentiment was repeated almost weekly by myself and The Boy through late October and into early November, as Mizzou never quite got it going.  They always got to the game which, if they won, would really propel them, and then lost it.  After a win against CU, Mizzou was back to 13-13 and 7-9 in conference with four matches left, three of them at home.  Win those (the road game was at Texas) and they likely could make it.  They lost all four, and the season ended.

2009 - A Look Ahead

The first off-season without a tourney appearance looks like it was pretty productive for the Tigers.  First, L Caitlyn Vann got a tryout with Team USA, which is always a prestigious honor.  On the recruiting front, they initially inked a pretty darn impressive class of three new players, at least one of which should be making an immediate impact.  A few weeks later, they would bring in one last player for the season, making their class of four evenly split with two JUCO's and two true frosh.  They also made a coaching change, bringing in former Stanford assistant Chris Muscat.  Muscat was a part of a couple of Pac 10 Championship squads and some NCAA teams as well, including the runner-up last season to Penn State.  Speaking of which, I remembered these stats were out there about the National Champs and thought they were worth a look.  From Black Shoe Diaries:

The numbers are mind numbing:
  * 38-0
  * 114-2 in sets (with both sets being on the opponents "home" court in the national semis)
  * 111 consecutive sets won (NCAA record)
  * Only 20 or more points given up in only 26 of 116 sets.
Wow.

...yeah....wow indeed.  I believe also their ENTIRE STARTING SQUAD made the All-American team (4 first team, 2 second team and Coach of the Year).  Anyway, back to Muscat, it is also worth mentioning he helped coach three 1st team All-Americans last season, so needless to say he is bringing a lot of high-level experience with him. 

Since we dont need to cover what Mizzou has lost, let's now look at what is returning for 2009.  A team which had no seniors the year before now becomes a pretty veteran squad with six of them, along with four juniors.  Leading the way will be Klein, who led the Tigers in total kills and kills/game (3.42) last season.  However, she only hit .189, and will need to pick that average up for the Tigers to improve.  Also returning will be Util Megan Wilson and MB Amanda Hantouli, who were the 3rd and 4th most prolific hitters on the squad last season.  Hantouli led Mizzou with an average of .253, as well as total blocks and blocks/game.  The #2 hitter (obviously) returns in the form of junior RS/MB Weiwen (Wendy) Wang who was 2nd in both kill/game and average.   Senior DS Lauren Nuckolls and junior MB Catie Wilson came on OK towards the end of the season offensively while sophomore MB/OH Brittany Brimmage had some nice moments early on.   Hantouli, Klein and Wang started every match for the Tigers last season, with Wilson starting about half, though that is not always a great stat to use. 

It is not a great stat because Caitlyn Vann did not start a single match for the Tigers last season, though she led the team in digs and digs/game, while also being served to the most by the opposing team.  She is joined on defense by a pair of sophomores in DS Priscilla Armendariz and Annie Lopez, who each averaged a couple of digs per game.  Armendariz was one of the better servers on the squad last season, which often led to her seeing more time.  Finally, and perhaps the most important position on the floor, senior S Lei Wang returns for her last year.  The old saying is something about never wanting to replace a legend, and that is exactly what Wang was charged with after the departure of All-American Lindsey Hunter.  She has been serviceable, but the team averaged 2.5 fewer sets per game last season, which really hurt.  That number needs to come back towards what she and the Tigers did back in 2007 for the team to get back over the hump.

Mizzou will also welcome four new players into the mix this season, and I can see where a couple of them could and hopefully will have an impact.  I expect/hope for the largest to come from JUCO transfer OH/RS Paola Ampudia.  She was the National JUCO Player of the Year in 2007 as a sophomore (she did not play last season), hitting an amazing .571 with with almost 4 kills/game.  Coack Kreklow is very excited about her, and us adding another big (and efficient) hitter would be a great shot in the arm for the offense.  The other JUCO entering with Paola is actually from the same school.  Junior MB Rosa Medrano was a two-time JUCO All-American and led her team to a berth in the Championships last season.  As for the two freshman, both are from the KC area, with S Kate Harris being from Lee's Summit and MH Lindsey Petrick hailing from Overland Park.  The 6'2 Petrick can jump out of the gym, but may not see a lot of time across a pretty crowded front (especially if Brimmage has improved).  As for Harris, you would love to see her get some experience this season before the setter position is likely turned over to her next season.  Coach Kreklow was VERY high on her, as was PrepVolleyball.com, who named her one of their top 25 seniors.

The schedule is pretty average, as the Big XII is always pretty solid and the Tigers do play a couple of out of conference teams who made the NCAA's last season.  In Volleyball, there are not a ton of out of conference matches, but Mizzou's schedule is highlighted with matches against 2008 NCAA Tourney teams in Utah and Michigan.  The conference season is each team (minus Okie State) twice, simple home and away.  There are four more tourney teams in there, with perennial powers Nebraska and Texas, both of whom lost in the national semis last season.  The Big XII may have been a hair down last season, so if the conference picks it up, this schedule will certainly get tougher in a hurry.  That, and five of the six tourney teams from last year who the Tigers will play did make the Sweet 16, so that ain't bad either.

Prediction Time

I really dont think many saw the 4 game fall the Tigers experienced from 2007 to 2008, but the youth really seemed to play a big part of it.  With a very experienced team returning (and adding some junior pieces), the time is now for the program to rebound and to start another NCAA streak.  I will be very curious to see what changes (if any) are made to the starting lineup and how that trickles down to who plays in rotation.  Returning everyone is a good thing, but returning everyone from a sub .500 team is not always great.  If Wang can show a return to her 2006 form of about 12.5 assists per game, that should help across the board.  At the same time, the hitters will need to put those passes away better than they did last season.  The team already digs and blocks decently, so improving the offense is likely where the team can make the biggest stride.  I am confident they will get the ship righted some this season and see a decent turn-around enough to put them back in the NCAA Tournament come December.

Outdoor Track:

And with this paragraph, the curtain falls on the 2008-2009 Mizzou athletic season, which has now spanned just shy of 10 months since the ladies kicked it off on the soccer pitch.  Good efforts from the team down in Arkansas this past weekend, as Mizzou crowned three more All-Americans.  Here is some of the "play by play" of the action from the past week.

  • Day 1 sees the Tigers get off to a good start
  • Day 2 brings Lars Rise an All-American honor
  • Day 3 finishes the season with Rohr and Lee earning AA honors as well

In the end, a set of impressive efforts from Lee and Rise and a slightly disappointing finish for Rohr, who does complete a pretty amazing Mizzou career.  It will be tough replacing the talent of Lee and Rohr, but we will get to that in due time about what the Tigers can expect.  In the meantime, let the longest two months of the year commence.

Random Thoughts:

  • I may have the most cursed fantasy baseball team...featuring Jake Peavy, Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Quentin, Josh Hamilton and Dice-K Matsuzaka
  • I really did not think Detroit would lose to PIttsburgh...I just figured they were toying with them
  • I grew up listening to Gary Thorne being partnered with the late/great Bob Murphy on Mets radio.  Thorne is the reason I became a New Jersey Devils fan, as he called for them on cable.  And I say this now, but Mike Emerick (who happens to be the New Jersey announcer now) is the best I have heard.
  • It's been a long time since I watched "Major League" on anything but TBS...forgot how much funnier it was
  • One interesting shot is of the Indians losing on the road to the Brewers, which was funny because the team played its games for the movie in Milwaukee's stadium.  In most "road" shots, they were simply changing the color of background at County Stadium...too funny.
  • My disinterest in the NBA grew considerably with the Finals this year...as I did not watch more than a few minutes here and there of the games.

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