With 3,501 fans in attendance at the Hearnes Center, the Missouri Tigers continued their impressive homestand with a 3-1 win (25-19, 23-25, 25-23, 25-12) over #24 Auburn. Mizzou made a statement today that could have a large effect on their seeding for the NCAA Tournament.
The black and gold Tigers were the first to gain separation in set one with a 4-0 run to take an 11-7 lead. Not only did Mizzou (17-9, 9-6) maintain the lead, it extended the advantage with another 4-0 streak to take a commanding 18-12 advantage.
Dawn Sullivan’s squad kept Auburn (18-7, 8-6) at bay for the rest of the set, clinching the victory 25-19 on a kill from Jordan Iliff, who maintained her high level of play after earning SEC Offensive Player of the Week for her performances last weekend. The entire Tigers attack was in full swing, finishing the set with an unreal .500 hitting percentage.
After another back-and-forth beginning in set two, Mizzou moved ahead even faster with a 5-0 run to establish an 8-4 advantage. Adding on two streaks of 3-0, the fightin’ Trumans built a seemingly insurmountable 17-10 lead.
However, Auburn clawed their way back into the set, slowly drawing closer until a Paige Thibault service ace reduced the Mizzou lead to one, 24-23. Once again, Iliff came to the rescue, shutting the door on the comeback attempt from the Tigers of The Plains with a kill to secure the 25-23 win.
While Mizzou only hit .289 (this is actually a pretty good number, just not insane like the first set), they stifled the Auburn offense, which only mustered a .179 hitting percentage.
In set three, the two teams remained close throughout much of the action, neither side gaining an advantage of more than two points. Then, at 18-17 Mizzou, Auburn ran off five consecutive points to take a 22-18 lead.
Mizzou was actually able to catch up with the other Tigers on a 3-0 run, 23-23, before Auburn got the two points needed to stave off defeat, 25-23. With both sides hitting in the .270 range, the difference was in attack and service errors. Mizzou finished the set with seven attack errors and five service errors compared to two and two for Auburn.
Whatever dreams the blue and orange Tigers had of a comeback were quickly crushed in set four, as Mizzou powered its way to a 7-3 lead. Adding insult to injury, Dawn Sullivan’s squad tacked on two 4-0 runs to move ahead 19-9.
To (loosely) quote Charles Dickens, “You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Auburn was dead as a doornail.” Mizzou finished off their dominant 25-12 set victory with another run of, you guessed it, 4-0.
The black and gold Tigers hit .440 in this set, which would probably feel more impressive if not for their set one performance. They also added on seven service aces in this set alone.
Mizzou hit .356 for the match, its best offensive performance of the season aside from the match vs. Mississippi St. last weekend. The team also tied a season-high in service aces with 12.
Jordan Iliff led the Tigers in kills with 18 while hitting .441, a number which quite simply shouldn’t be possible on 34 attempts. Janet deMarrais finished a close second with 15 kills, while Colleen Finney earned the bronze medal in kills with 11 on a .773 hitting percentage.
Yes, you saw that right. This match may have been Finney’s best performance of the season, and she has stepped into the limelight in the last two weekends. Initially relying heavily on her (still very effective) slide attack, she has added several more weapons to her arsenal, and is a dangerous player out on the court.
Sierra Dudley finished the night with 55 sets, looking like a grizzled veteran as a freshman. Maya Sands led Mizzou in digs with 23 followed by deMarrais with 11 and Iliff with 10.
This team just made a top-25 team look inferior in every way, and I would be shocked if Mizzou doesn’t start receiving votes in the next AVCA poll. They are getting stronger with every match, peaking at the right time as we move towards the tournament.
This team is for real, and everyone who fails to realize it does so at their own peril. We’ll see if this message gets to Florida, who Mizzou faces in its final home match of the season on Friday night.