I've been meaning to write something but life has been busy. The Beef kicked me in my backside, told me to get un-busy and wrote some words about volleyball. Thanks Beef!
18-0. Only once before has a Mizzou Volleyball team started 19-0, and with a win tonight against Austin Peay (6-13) in the Hearnes, the Lady Tigers can match that mark. Now ranked 25th in the country, they are one of only three unbeaten teams in the country (UNC is #10 and Colorado St. is #13).
How did we get here? Impressively. The Tigers have only dropped three sets all season and has yet to drop a first set. Even better, when they have dropped a set (all in the 2nd), they have come back to win every time, making them also perfect in the third and fourth sets. To me, this shows the team is coming in with a good game plan, and if/when they have a team make some adjustments on the fly between the first and second set, they head to the locker room, regroup, and take it to them in the third. So who are we doing this against?
Let’s take a look at the opposing schedule to this point, perhaps to try to explain the gulf between CSU and MU. Though our squad currently owns the most wins in the country, the schedule has (obviously) been considered a little on the light side. To date, the combined opposition record checks in at 160-137 (.539 winning percentage). There are a couple of decent "looking" (in quotes because I did not check that hard) wins with NC State at 12-4 and Yale is 9-3 out of the Ivy League. There are some dogs in there as well, with Rice (4-14) and Fairfield (5-11) taking the cake. Will it get better now that we have hit the conference slate?
Unfortunately, of all the sports in which the SEC excels as a conference, volleyball is very much not one of them. Though Florida is #2 in the nation at 15-1 and Kentucky checks in at 15th with a 12-3 record, that is it for the SEC in the polls. No one else is even getting a vote. Right now, Florida and Kentucky sit ahead of the Tigers in the SEC standings (as they each have played one more match), the next in line is Arkansas, who the Tigers have already taken out in Fayetteville. Without getting ahead of ourselves, we seem situated to do well in conference this season. We will get Florida at home on 10/20 in what will be our biggest home match of the season. Right now, the Tigers are in the midst of a favorable stretch where they will end up playing 12 matches out of 16 at home. Turnabout will be fair play to end the year, as they will finish with 5 of their last 7 on the road, including matches at Kentucky and Florida.
Now that we know how we got here and where we may go, let’s talk about how we’ve done it. In volleyball, it all starts in the middle, and few are better in the country right now than senior Molly Kreklow. Per the NCAA website, Kreklow is second in the country in assists per set with 12.47, and the squad overall is also second at 14.35. So even when Kreklow may find herself to be out of the play or position due to a bad pass or reception, the team is still getting it done almost twice a set. Kreklow is also serving well, with .44 aces per set (so about 1.5 per match).
But where are the sets going? To a collection of hitters who combine to have, you guessed it, the highest hitting percentage in the nation with a percentage of 38.7% Our kill leader is no surprise, as senior Lisa Henning is 16th in the nation with 4.54 kills per set, hitting at a 38.4% clip (good for 45th in the nation). Per the NCAA, we actually have the hitter with the best percentage, as junior Whitney Little checks in with a ridiculous 55% hitting percentage. In fact, going by percentage alone, Henning is only third on the team, with Kreklow hitting 44.4% in limited attacks and freshman Emily Thater is third on the squad at 41.1%. Next is freshman Carly Kan (35.7%) who hits at that level and is only 5'9, and junior Emily Wilson (34.4%) rounds out the list of the primary hitters.
Defensively, we really rely on three people to receive the serves, and all three are doing very well. Kan is currently the primary receiver (343 serves) and has only had 17 errors, for a reception percentage of 95%. Junior Sarah Meister is next on the team and is just off of Kan’s pace at 94.6% with almost the same amount of serves received, while frosh Loxley Keala is right behind her at 94.3% reception. Meister is our leading digger at 3.75 digs per set, while Kreklow, Henning and Kan show of their versatility with about 2.3 digs per set as well. Up front, Little and Thater average over a block per set a piece, with Henning next at .72 per set. What does this all mean for Henning? She is just outside the top-10 in the nation at points per set at five and a quarter per set.
So what does it all mean (Basil)? The straight-set romps in non-con allowed Coach Kreklow to extend his bench at times, getting play for people like sophomores Regan Peltier and Lydia Ely (who is 6’6) and frosh Julia Tower, all of whom will need to step up in the next two years. In the meantime, I believe this team will continue to slowly make their way up the polls, but respect will be earned over time because few other teams on this opposing schedule are marquee matchups. After the match against APSU, the team will travel down to Knoxville for a Friday night match against Tennessee (8-9. 0-3). The week will finish back at home against Alabama (13-4, 1-2). The home stand continues with Georgia (13-3, 3-1) on Friday the 18th, with the match against #2 Florida on Sunday the 20th. By the numbers, this team should go 4-1 through that string. To be honest, anything less would be disappointing. The Tigers made a nice jump into the polls this week. Go 4-1 in the next two weeks and that should continue.
Then The Beef emailed me back and thought you should know this:
First official @NCAAVolleyball RPI has been released as well and we are 12th! #STP— Mizzou Volleyball (@MizzouVB) October 7, 2013
Okay, so what's up with the soccer team?
2013 hasn't been quite as fruitful as initially hoped. The lady footballers currently sit at .500 with a record of 6-6-1. After an impressive 1-0 win over #7 Florida a week ago, they were only able to draw with Vanderbilt on Friday night before losing to Texas A&M 2-1 on Sunday.
Goaltending is strong, as senior McKenzie Sauerwein has allowed 3 or more goals only once, in a 3-2 loss at Portland. So having allowed so few goals, instantly turns the spotlight to the attack, where Missouri has scored 6 goals in their 6 losses.
Things aren't going to be easy going forward either, with trips to LSU (RPI #55), Kentucky (RPI #33) and Arkansas (RPI #29) on the schedule, mixed in with home games against South Carolina (RPI #7), Auburn (RPI #96) and Tennessee (RPI #30). Oh ... you want to know Missouri's RPI? It's currently 118.