This weekend went about as well as one could possibly expect for Mizzou Volleyball. After falling in two straight matches, including a 3-1 letdown at Ole Miss, the Tigers needed to bounce back and make a statement.
That’s exactly what they did, demolishing Mississippi St. Friday before winning an edge-of-your-seat thriller vs. Georgia on Sunday.
Mizzou controlled the match vs. the Bulldogs from start-to-finish, thoroughly schooling an SEC opponent (25-15, 25-18, 25-18) on the way to possibly their most dominant conference victory of the year.
The Tigers jumped out to an early 6-2 lead in the first set on a 4-0 run, adding on another four straight points shortly after to race out to a 12-6 advantage. Mizzou added insult to injury with two 3-0 runs on their way to a blowout 25-15 set one victory.
Set two began as a more evenly matched affair before the Tigers pulled a Roadrunner and scored five consecutive points to take the lead 12-7. Mississippi St. closed the gap to two points at 16-14 on a kill by Sophie Agee before a 3-0 run gave restored a five point lead, 19-14. The Tigers never looked back, closing out the set with another 3-0 run and clinching the 25-18 win on a double block from Janet deMarrais and Madilyn Sell.
The third set was much closer than the first two, and Mizzou found itself up 15-14 in a tight game before a 3-0 run kicked off a dominant finish to the match. Leading 19-16, the Tigers ran off four straight points to erase all hopes of a comeback and clinch the sweep with a 25-18 victory.
This is what utter domination looks like. Mizzou hit an absurd .458 on the match, feasting on the Bulldogs defense like they were at Fogo de Chao after going on a hunger strike. The Tigers defense held up their end of the bargain as well, limiting Mississippi St. to a meager .165 hitting percentage and finishing with four blocks.
Jordan Iliff led Mizzou with 15 kills and a .619 hitting percentage, a number so ridiculous I’m still wondering if there was a glitch in the statistics. She was followed up by Dilara Gedikoglu with 11 kills and a .429 hitting percentage, and Janet deMarrais also recorded 11 kills while hitting .357. Props should go to Colleen Finney as well, who finished the match with 8 kills and a .429 hitting percentage to provide a strong fourth option on the attack.
The match against Georgia Sunday was much closer, and more likely to induce heartburn or cardiac troubles. Mizzou barely edged the Bulldogs in a five-set heartstopper (16-25, 25-23, 29-31, 25-23, 15-13) at the Hearnes Center.
Georgia distanced themselves slowly throughout the first set, never going on a run of more than three points, and doing that only twice. There were never any truly defining moments, the Bulldogs simply outplayed the Tigers and it eventually showed up in the score line.
After taking a 3-1 lead to begin set two, Mizzou quickly relinquished the lead on a 3-0 Georgia run. The two teams settled in, and the Tigers caught back up with a 3-0 run of their own to knot the score at 12 each. Mizzou took the lead 17-14 with five consecutive points and never looked back, evening up the match at 1-1 with a 25-23 victory following a late charge by the Bulldogs.
The Tigers quickly took a commanding lead in set three, 7-2, before Georgia stormed back to tie it up at 9-9. The two squads remained knotted in a close battle for the remainder of the set, with neither side gaining an advantage larger than two points.
This was a set that would not, could not, be finished regularly. The two SEC foes engaged in an exhausting marathon duel, each team facing set point and escaping. Finally, Estelle Haugen recorded a service ace to give the Bulldogs set two 31-29.
Down 2-1 after a physically and emotionally draining set, a lot of teams would likely see their performance falter, or simply give up. Not this team. Not this year. The loss just made Dawn Sullivan’s squad hungrier.
Georgia strung together a 6-0 run early on in the set to pull ahead 9-6 before a 3-0 run in response from Mizzou tied the set up at 9. The Tigers began to slowly build a cushion, going ahead 16-13 following three straight blocks by the front line, all involving Morgan Isenberg.
Ahead 21-16, Mizzou saw its lead cut to two on a 3-0 run by the Bulldogs, but were able to hold on for their second 25-23 victory of the match and force a deciding fifth set.
The fifth set was deadlocked until a 3-0 Georgia run put Mizzou down by two, 10-8, and forced a Dawn Sullivan timeout. This was a perfectly timed move by the head coach, and her team responded to close out the match.
Up 14-13 at match point, the fifth set ended with quite a bit of uncertainty. Jordan Iliff saw her kill initially ruled out of bounds, which would have tied up the set, before a lengthy review clearly showed the ball was inbounds. The match-winning kill gave the junior a new career-high in kills, quite a way to end the night.
Asked about her new career high, Iliff said, “It was awesome. It was just cool to feel the support for everyone else... In that moment, I felt just really proud of me and the staff and the team.”
Oddly enough, the Bulldogs finished with a much better .338 hitting percentage compared to .260 for the Tigers. Iliff ended the night with 22 kills and hit .289, followed by Janet deMarrais with 12 kills and Dilara Gedikoglu with 11.
Once again, this team showed its determination and grit when needed most. Victories like this can help you stand out when the committee is arranging the tournament field, and 15-9, 7-6 looks a whole lot better than 14-10, 6-7.
This weekend got the Tigers back on track, and gives them some momentum as they prepare to face Texas A&M Friday night at the Hearnes Center.