Mizzou recorded a second straight sweep (25-17, 25-19, 25-22) at the Tiger Invitational as they avenged their 3-2 loss to South Dakota from last season. The Tigers built on the momentum from their 3-0 win over Northern Kentucky last night, staying in the driver’s seat and controlling most of the match.
Mizzou’s front line showed up early on in the first set, recording two blocks and multiple tips within the first three points. While neither team took a commanding lead to begin the set, the Coyotes seemed to be having issues corralling Mizzou’s serves, and the Tigers won the battle at the net. This soon showed itself in the score line as Dawn Sullivan’s squad went on a 3-0 run to take a 9-5 lead.
However, South Dakota didn’t stay down for long, as they responded to tie the game up before two consecutive aces by Jordan Iliff made it 12-9. Mizzou went on to make several small runs that slowly built their lead throughout the set, including a streak of four straight points that gave them a 21-14 lead. Maya Sands put an exclamation point on the Tigers’ set one win by recording two aces in a row to close things out.
Neither offense was able to get cooking in this set, with both recording hitting percentages below .100. While Mizzou’s front line showed a strong presence early on, the Tigers also had five service errors, an issue which appeared again later on in the match.
The Mizzou attack had South Dakota running all over the court early on in the second set as the Coyotes struggled to control the Tigers’ spikes, leading to an early 3-0 lead. This was followed up by another streak of three in a row, forcing three-time Summit League Coach of the Year Leanne Williamson to call a timeout with the score at 7-2. The Coyotes responded strongly to their coach’s message in the huddle, cutting the Mizzou lead to one at 10-9 before tying the set up at 14. However, the Tigers fought back with a strong response of their own, racking up five straight points to make it 19-14. From that point, both teams went back and forth before Colleen Finney and Sierra Dudley combined for a set-winning block to put Mizzou up 2-0.
The third and final set ended up much closer than the first two. Although Mizzou came out of the gate quickly once again, going up 7-3, South Dakota responded and continued to be a thorn in the Tigers’ side for the rest of the set. The Coyotes closed the gap to one at 9-8 and again at 10-9 before a 3-0 Mizzou run punctuated by a Jordan Iliff kill gave the team back some breathing room at 15-11.
Leanne Williamson’s team refused to quit, though, and tied it up again at 20. However, Mizzou once again showed their ability to close out tight sets, going on a 3-0 run to take a 23-20 lead before Morgan Isenberg and Jordan Iliff finished off the Coyotes with two straight kills.
Although Mizzou posted a stellar .312 hitting percentage in the third set compared to South Dakota’s abysmal .000, the final score was close because of a litany of unforced errors by the Tigers, including six service errors. As a result, what should have been a comfortable third set victory to wrap the match up instead had the Tigers sweating out their final five points.
Overall, this was a very solid win for Mizzou. While South Dakota certainly isn’t a Power Five (soon to be Power Four?) squad, they are projected to win the Summit League again after taking both the regular season and conference championships a year ago. The Coyotes nearly made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament last year, forcing Houston to five sets, and they have won the Summit League regular season and/or tournament title in five straight seasons.
This win should look good on the Tigers’ resume later on in the year, and winning matches in non-conference play against opponents such as the Coyotes could help sway the selection committee in Mizzou’s favor should they find themselves on the tournament bubble after conference play.
Offensively, the Tigers ended the day with a strong .265 hitting percentage, led by Jordan Iliff with 12 kills. She wound up with an eye-popping .524 hitting percentage today in a performance that may end up as one of her best this season (setting aside her 4 service errors).
As for the Mizzou defense, the frontline was fairly consistent throughout the match, making life difficult for the Coyotes’ attack and holding them to a meager .032 hitting percentage overall. Maya Sands once again anchored the backline of the defense, and made some incredible saves today.
However, as always, there is room to improve on the Tigers’ performance this afternoon. Mizzou recorded 15 service errors in the match. If they hope to upset defending national runner-up Louisville tomorrow, they’ll have to clean that aspect of their game up quickly. Dawn Sullivan and the Tigers will look to make a statement victory and stay undefeated Sunday at 2:30 when they take on the Cardinals.