In the first set of tonight’s match at No. 14 Tennessee, Mizzou Volleyball showed what they can be. Unfortunately, that bright flash of potential was overshadowed by inconsistency and far too many mistakes as the Tigers were swept by the Tennessee Lady Vols (24-26, 19-25, 11-25).
This match was always going to be an uphill battle, facing a top-15 squad in one of the league’s toughest environments, Thompson-Boling Arena, on quite possibly the gaudiest volleyball floor on planet Earth. However, Mizzou simply looked lost for most of the second and third sets, and the match showed that these Tigers still have a long way to go in order to climb their way back into the upper tier of the SEC.
Neither team was able to settle in early on in set one, and Mizzou went on the first major run of the set by scoring three straight to take an 8-7 lead and prompt a timeout for Tennessee. The two squads battled back and forth until the Tigers ran up four straight points (including two aces by Maya Sands) to go ahead 16-12. Mizzou’s high point in the set (and the match) came at 18-15. From that point on, the Lady Vols went on an 11-6 run to take set one, clinching the 26-24 set victory on two consecutive blocks.
Mizzou was able to take a 4-3 lead to kick off set two before Tennessee took the lead for good on a 4-0 run to go up 7-4. The Tigers were able to stay afloat for a while, cutting the lead to one before three in a row for the Lady Vols made it 11-7. After Dilara Gedikoglu ended the streak with a kill, Tennessee picked up right where they left off and strung together a 6-0 run to take a commanding 17-8 lead. Head coach Dawn Sullivan went to her bench to make some changes and try to shift the momentum, taking out setter Sierra Dudley and putting in Sarah White as well as Naomi Franco. The team responded, going on a 4-0 run to tighten the score to 17-12. Mizzou was never able to make another large dent in the deficit, though, and UT finished things off with another set-clinching block.
Tennessee dominated the final set from start to finish. The Lady Vols racked up six straight points to take an early 6-1 lead, and tacked on a 5-0 run for good measure to go up 14-4. The Tigers looked clearly outmatched in this set, and were never able to mount a serious comeback attempt. Tennessee added on another run, this one 4-0, and cruised to a dominant 25-11 victory to take the sweep. All three of the Lady Vols’ set wins ended on blocks tonight. The win was UT coach Eve Rackham Watt’s 100th of her career, and her team’s 13th consecutive victory at Thompson-Boling.
Mizzou was never able to put together a strong attack in any set, and finished with a .080 hitting percentage alongside 23 attack errors and eight service errors. Janet deMarrais led the team with 10 kills, although Colleen Finney was easily the most efficient member of the Tigers attack tonight with a .429 hitting percentage on seven attempts with four kills.
Tennessee sandwiched two dominant sets on the attack with a subpar performance in set two. The Lady Vols posted a .254 overall hitting percentage, and were led by Morgahn Fingall with 10 kills at a .333 clip.
Mizzou lost the battle at the net tonight. Despite holding their own early on, the Tigers were worn down by Tennessee, who were able to get plenty of open looks from the second set onward. The Lady Vols also frustrated the Tigers on defense all night, recording 12 blocks.
That's a final from Knoxville, Tennessee. pic.twitter.com/ZYna5FYhOJ— Mizzou Volleyball (@MizzouVB) September 21, 2023
The Tigers will look to bounce back on Sunday when they host South Carolina at the Hearnes Center for their SEC home opener.