My name is Chris Turner and I'm currently a Sophomore Journalism Major at Missouri. I'm originally from Arkansas and grew up a Razorbacks fan, so I hope you'll all forgive me for that off the bat.
Why am I telling you this? Well, I'm happy to announce that I'll be joining Rock M Nation as the main Missouri volleyball and soccer writer this fall!
VolleyZou and Missouri soccer news will now be relegated to a weekly post, affectionally named Net Results, that will cover all the news you may have missed that week. These posts will start Monday, July 14th, and will continue throughout the season. Then, on Wednesday, August 14th, midweek previews for both soccer and volleyball will go up along side the weekly roundup.
An undefeated regular season, two first-team all-america selections, and the school's first SEC Championship in school history. There seemed to be magic inside the Hearnes Center every time the Mizzou Volleyball team took the floor in 2013, as the Tigers swept opponent after opponent with deadly-accurate hitting from Lisa Henning and Carly Kan. Despite their season coming to an abrupt halt in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, things seem to be pointing in the right direction for VolleyZou. Kan, the SEC Freshman of the Year, and senior middle blocker Whitney Little return to help power the Tigers offense this year, and while the setter position is up in the air with the departure of Molly Kreklow, Missouri's hitting should still be a dangerous threat this season.
Coach Wayne Kreklow and the Tigers travel to Denton, Texas, the last week of August to take part in the North Texas Tournament, facing off against Mississippi Valley State, Northwestern State, and North Texas. Missouri has won 17 of its last 18 non-conference match-ups, sweeping 15 of those opponents last year. Here's an early look at the three opponents Mizzou will see at the North Texas Tournament:
August 29 vs. Mississippi Valley State (at Denton, TX)
Players to keep your eye on:
Athena Abary (Sophomore Setter)
Last year as a Freshman, Abary led the Devilettes in both Assists (406) and Hitting Percentage (.253), and was ninth in the SWAC in Service Aces with 28. Now back with a year of experience under her belt, she should be able to improve upon her Assist and Attack number in 2014.
Steffi Rodriguez (Senior Libero)
One of the best, if not the best, defensive players on MVSU, Steffi Rodriguez led the team in digs with 262, good for eighth in the conference. She's one of the bright spots on an otherwise relatively weak defense that allowed opponents to hit .222 last year, near the bottom of the SWAC
Halee Clark (Senior Outside Hitter)
Any offensive success the Devilettes had in 2013 came through Halee Clark. The Senior was second on the team in hitting percentage at .215 while averaging 2.32 Kills per set, landing her in the top ten rankings in the conference. Along with Senior Right Side Hitter Taylor Delaire, they'll power the Mississippi Valley State offense this season.
I see this as a pretty one sided match for the Tigers. Emily Wilson, Kan, and Little should have very consistent success against the Devilettes early on. Defensively, the size advantage tilts in favor for Missouri, specifically up front near the net with Little and Emily Thater (both 6-3). Missouri 3, Mississippi Valley State 0
August 30 vs. Northwestern State (at Denton, TX)
Players to keep an eye out on:
Keelie Arneson (Senior Libero/Setter)
The leader of the Lady Demons defense, Arneson led not only the team in Digs, but also led the Southland Conference with 712 total (5.70 per set). For her efforts, she was named to the All-Southland First Team, the 2013 Southland Libero of the year, and the Southland Student Athlete of the year. She'll be back at NWSU for her final year in hopes of a return to the Southland Conference Tournament finals.
Glynna Johnson (Junior Middle Blocker)
At 6-3, Johnson is the tallest player the Lady Demons have on their roster, and it pays dividends up front. She's led the team in blocks the past two seasons, with 224 total blocks over that time. She turned in four different eight-block performances in 2013, three of them within a week, and one in the Southland Championship. At Middle Blocker, Johnson has been able to make an impact offensively and defensively.
Ashley Elrod (Sophomore Outside Hitter)
Elrod had a breakout Freshman year for the Lady Demons, leading the team in Kills (334) and Kills per set (2.90). She would also land a spot on the All-Southland second team and won Southland Freshman of the Year. If she can improve on her attack accuracy, she could be not only the best attacker for NWSU, but in the Southland Conference.
The Lady Demons will be a step up in competition from the day before, losing only one player from last year's team that was one win shy of winning the Southland Conference title. NWSU's defense will be the biggest problem for the Tigers, with Glynna Johnson and Keelie Johnson manning the front and middle. Offensively, Missouri will have the advantage with multiple attacking options, and should be able to handle the Demons on the road. Missouri 3, Northwestern State 0
August 30 vs. North Texas (at Denton, TX)
Players to keep an eye on:
Amy Henard (Sophomore Setter)
While Mean Green fans will miss All-Conference USA Senior Karissa Flack, fans must be happy that Amy Henard will be in Denton for three more years. She climbed into the Top 10 list of North Texas' All-time Assist leaders with 1,091 in her first year at UNT. A member of the All-Conference USA first team, Henard may be the best Setter in the conference in 2014.
Carnae Dillard (Junior Outside Hitter)
As a Sophomore, Dillard lead the team in Kills and moved into the top five in UNT history in all-time kills. Along with Karissa Flack, they both formed a solid one-two attack that helped both land spots on the All-Conference USA first team. While Dillard lacks the accuracy Flack had, there is always room for improvement.
Hanna Forst (Senior Outside Hitter)
Forst has had consistent success for the Mean Green since transferring to UNT from South Carolina in 2011, tallying 366 kills and hitting .219 in her two seasons in Denton. Dillard and Forst could be the one-two punch on the attacking side of the ball that Flack-Dillard had in 2013.
The loss of Karissa Flack hurts the Mean Green offensively, but Carnae Dillard and Hanna Forst have been constantly improving during their time at UNT. Amy Henard's impact will only continue to grow as a Sophomore, and I expect she will be distributing the ball more effectively than last season. The biggest question for North Texas comes at the Middle Blocker position, with three Freshman vying for the starting spot left by Karissa Flack.
I believe Mizzou can expose that spot in the Defense from constant pressure in the middle from Emily Thater and Whitney Little, and should push the Tigers to sweep the North Texas Tournament. Missouri 3, North Texas 1