Somewhat lost in the hubbub of Family Weekend and whatever the heck happened on Saturday against Middle Tennessee, Mizzou Volleyball headed to Cincinnati, Ohio, to play three matches in two days. After a rough first match Friday morning against Buffalo, the Tigers were able to turn things around and head home with two more wins on their record.
Although Mizzou’s first two games of the tournament were not televised, it was easy to tell from the game stats that the Buffalo match wasn’t that close. Mizzou was swept (18-25, 19-25, 18-25) for the second straight match (Louisville), and the Bulls breezed their way through sets one and three. In set two, Mizzou was able to keep the score close until Buffalo began to pull away at 20-18. The Tigers weren’t able to get going offensively, recording a .094 hitting percentage and 21 attack errors. On the other side, the Bulls posted a .341 hitting percentage, overpowering the Mizzou defense.
With their second match of the tournament coming later in the day, the Tigers needed to move on quickly. That’s exactly what they did, sweeping Bellarmine (25-17, 25-20, 25-14). Dawn Sullivan’s squad decided to copy and paste the events of their first match and replace Bulls with Tigers, earning relatively stress-free victories in the first and third sets while pulling away at the end of set two after what had mostly been a close-fought set.
Mizzou spread the love on the attack in this match. Jordan Iliff led the squad with 13 kills, followed by Morgan Isenberg and Janet deMarrais at seven, and Kimani Johnson with six.
The offense was back up again and clicking in this match, hitting .257 while cutting the attack errors down to 14. On the other side, the Knights were held to a .112 hitting percentage, and only one player was able to record a hitting percentage above .200.
After going 1-1 on Friday, Mizzou needed a victory over Xavier to emerge from the tournament with a winning record on the road. They got the result they were looking for, but only after having to push the match to five sets (25-14, 21-25, 16-25, 25-23, 15-8).
Set one started out as a back-and-forth battle before Mizzou went on a 6-0 run to take a 16-10 lead which they wouldn’t give back, cruising the rest of the way to take a 1-0 lead in the match. After surviving an early push by Xavier in the second set and going ahead 15-11, the Musketeers regained the momentum and tied the set at 16. After trading points to make the score 20-20, Xavier ran off four straight points to pull away and even the match up at 1-1.
After the Tigers took a lead at the beginning of set three, Xavier went ahead 7-6 on an Anna Taylor kill and never looked back, putting their foot on the accelerator and convincingly taking set three to move within one set of the victory. However, Mizzou had other plans, and the two squads would stay neck-and-neck for the entirety of set four until a Jordan Iliff kill gave the Tigers a narrow win, sending the two teams to set five.
After the tension and excitement of set four, the fifth and final set proved to be fairly anticlimactic. With the set tied at three, Mizzou scored six straight to take a 9-3 advantage, and Xavier was never able to get close again.
The Tigers struggled offensively for most of the match, ending with a .175 hitting percentage which was buoyed by a strong final set. Morgan Isenberg, who was named to the All-Tournament Team, piled up a career-high 16 kills with a gaudy .444 hitting percentage.
Congratulations to Morgan Isenberg who was named to the 2023 Xavier Tournament All-Tournament Team‼️— Mizzou Volleyball (@MizzouVB) September 10, 2023
Isenberg totaled 25 kills (2.50 kills/set) on a .347 hitting percentage with nine blocks (0.90 blocks/set) over the two-day tourney.
She was backed up by Jordan Iliff and Dilara Gedikoglu at 14 kills apiece, and then Colleen Finney with six. Mizzou struggled with attack errors again in this match, tallying up 33 overall. However, the Tigers were able to limit the Musketeers to a .171 hitting percentage for the match.
Mizzou will continue their road stretch when they travel to Charleston, Illinois, to face the Eastern Illinois Panthers this Thursday and Friday.