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Melanie Crow leads Missouri Volleyball past Purdue and into the Sweet 16

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Mizzou is back in the Sweet 16 for the first time in six years.

Three years ago, what might have been Missouri’s best volleyball team ever fell in the second round of the NCAAs at home to Purdue. Sometimes revenge takes a little while.

Led by transfer Melanie Crow’s career-high 25 kills, Wayne and Susan Kreklow’s Tigers took down the Boilermakers in four sets — 25-13, 22-25, 25-16, 25-21 — to get past Purdue into the round of 16 on Friday night. Courtney Eckenrode had 51 assists, and Alexa Ethridge and Carly Kan combined for 30 digs, but this was the Crow show.

“She’s as good as anyone we’ve played all year, and we’re in a good league,” Boilermakers Coach Dave Shondell said of Crow. Shondell coaches in the Big Ten, which claimed the top three national seeds and had a total of six seeded programs. [...]

“Our serve-receive was spot on, which really gave us opportunities to put the ball away the first time,” Crow said. “We’ve been working on that rhythm. Courtney did an amazing job. Kudos to her and the middles for giving me those opportunities. I just tried to put the ball away whenever I could.”

Mizzou will play the winner of Hawaii-Minnesota in the sweet 16. The Golden Gophers are the tournament’s No. 2 overall seed and swept Purdue in West Lafayette in early October.

The win moves the Tigers to 27-5 on the season. The pieces fell into place beautifully following a 6-3 start; Mizzou lost to Utah and Miami (Ohio) in the Tiger Invitational, then got swept by No. 10 BYU in the Idaho State Invitational. Since then, they’re 21-2.

In 2005, Missouri’s athletic department was in the final stages of about three years of frustration: The football team’s progress was rocky, and the basketball team was in the process of not only cratering, but also falling under NCAA sanctions. The volleyball team, however, went 25-6 and advanced to the Elite Eight. They gave Tiger fans something to be excited about and showed them the light at the end of the tunnel. In 2016, the Fightin’ Kreklows are doing basically the same thing.