As has been done in softball in most of the past few seasons, it is time to open up the InterWebs and take a look at what Mizzou has in store in the first two rounds of the NCAA Volleyball Championships. Our 1st round match on Friday night (approx tip time: 6:30pm) will be the second match of the night, as the Purdue Boilermakers and Central Arkansas Bears will meet at 4:30pm. I will have more on both in the coming days, but we start with our sites set squarely on the one team we know we will see, the IUPUI Jaguars.
About the Hawks: IUPUI finished the season with a 19-13 overall record and a 11-3 mark in the Summit League, taking both the regular season and conference titles. It was their second consecutive regular season title, but this will be the first time IUPUI has tasted the NCAA tournament. They come into the tournament riding a four-game winning streak, pushing their RPI to 114. By comparison, Ole Miss is currently 113 (Tigers defeated 25-21, 25-18, 25-18 at The Hearnes on November 1st).
Out of Conference: Not much here, as their best win came against RPI #136 South Florida in a 3-0 sweep. Beyond that, the next best win was against #175 Miami (OH). They did take on #63 Northwestern, falling 17-21-14 in a sweep in Evanston. They also took on #50 Ohio State, losing 16-22-22 in Columbus. In total, the Jags went 8-10 in their OOC.
In Conference: The OOC slate did not transition nicely to the conference schedule for the Jags, as they dropped their first two conference matches (on the road). However, nine straight wins before a loss to IPFW (who really seemed to have their number, as they took them to five sets in the conference tourney) set the Jags straight. They finished the season with two more wins, taking the conference title by a game over Denver.
The Roster: Looks like the Jags really employed eight people for each match, so here is a high-level on each:
- Moriah Fair (SR - Outside Hitter) - Biggest hitter for the Jags this season, coming in with a 3.87 Kills/set average on a .215 hitting percentage. Hitting improved in conference season, with over 4 kills/set and percentage increased to .295
- Kaitlyn Hickey (SOPH - Outside Hitter) - Right behind Fair with a 3.39 kills/set average on a .224 hitting percentage. Also led the team in solo blocks and was second in digs.
- Kelly Wachtel (SOPH - Outside Hitter/Right Side) - Third on the team in kills, but the most effective with a .281 hitting percentage
- Kortni Wright (RS SR - Ride Side/Middle Hitter) - Tied for the team lead in total blocks (100) and second on the squad with 21 solo blocks
- Logan Walling (FR - Middle Blocker) - Tied for the team lead in total blocks (100) and also led the team in block assists (84)
- Alexis Meeks (SR - Setter) - Averaged 10.71 assists/set and was third on the team in digs
- Meredith Farkas (JR - Outside Hitter) - Led the team with service aces (47) but not much of a hitter (only 63 kills on 261 attempts and .069 hitting average)
- Beth Howard (JR - Defensive Specialist/Libero) Led the team in digs (4.76 per set)
Stats of Note: This is a solid digging team, as they are 21st in the nation. Howard's 4.76 per set puts her just outside the top 50 in the country. The team also served well and did not give many back, as they had 172 aces to only 134 errors.
Notes of Note: The Jags play in The Jungle, which is "located on the main concourse of the IU Natatorium". Seems like an odd place for an arena. Also, the Jags basketball team looks like it will be getting some new digs in 2014.
Prediction: Three seniors, two juniors, two sophomores and a freshman is a nice solid balance and likely means the Jags may be built to maintain their new-found success in The Summit League for some years to come. However, walking into The Hearnes as NCAA novices against us and what should be a large crowd is not a good formula for success. On the season, the Jags played in front of 14,292 people. They are likely to play in front of half that (or more) in their final match of the season. I dont believe MU takes this team lightly at all, but I also believe we see the full lineup get some time.