Entering today’s match against South Carolina, Dawn Sullivan was searching for her first SEC win and the Tigers were looking to end a five match losing streak at the hands of the Gamecocks. Both searches ended as the Tigers put together a complete performance in a 3-1 victory at the Hearnes Center (25-15, 25-18, 23-25, 25-22).
Mizzou came out motivated and dominated set one. South Carolina jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, but the Tigers quickly caught up and took a 6-4 lead thanks to Jordan Iliff. The St. Louis native was absolutely on fire, racking up three kills and two aces in the match’s first 10 points. The two squads were locked in a back and forth battle until Mizzou went on an impressive 6-0 run to go up 16-10.
The Tigers looked extremely dangerous during this run, frustrating the Gamecocks with their stout defense and imposing their will on offense. Mizzou slowly expanded its advantage throughout the rest of the set and clinched set one on a 4-0 run to finish with a double digit win, 25-15.
The Tigers’ .237 hitting percentage failed to capture just how well their attack was operating for most of the set. Jordan Iliff and Morgan Isenberg teamed up to lead the attack in this set, each notching five kills in the opening frame. On the defensive end, Mizzou prevented South Carolina from getting anything going, holding them to a .000 hitting percentage.
South Carolina entered the second set motivated and took an 8-4 lead with four straight points before the Tigers responded with a 4-0 run of their own to go up 10-9. The two teams were locked in a tight, intense battle for a good portion of the set, with neither side able to gain a true upper hand.
That is, of course, until Mizzou scored seven in a row to take set two 25-18. If it’s true that cookies are for closers, then the Tigers earned themselves some giant cookies with their performance down the stretch. South Carolina once again struggled to gain traction offensively, hitting a meager .077, while Dawn Sullivan’s squad continued to do enough on offense with a .231 hitting percentage.
Mizzou seized the initiative early on in set three, taking a 7-4 lead. South Carolina refused to give up, however, picking away at the Tigers’ lead and scoring two in a row to go up 15-12. Mizzou responded with a 3-0 run to tie the set at 15, setting up a back and forth finish to the set that saw several ties and lead changes.
Both teams made runs, but neither side was able to take a lead larger than two or three. In the end, South Carolina was able to score two straight and edge out a 25-23 win to send the match to set four. The Gamecocks found much more breathing room to operate on the attack in this set, finishing with a .368 hitting percentage.
Once again, the Tigers used a huge point streak to lift themselves to victory. With the set tied at four early on, Mizzou went on a 6-0 run to take a 10-4 advantage. They were able to keep the Gamecocks at bay, leading 18-12, before South Carolina scored five straight to cut the lead to one, 19-18.
The Gamecocks defense kept finding ways to keep the ball in the air against all odds, and showed great resilience in coming back to tie the set at 21. However, the Tigers were able to dig deep and went on a 3-0 run to steal back the momentum before taking the match on a Jordan Iliff kill, 25-22.
If you’re a fan of offense, the last two sets were for you. Both teams recorded hitting percentages north of .350 in the final two frames. Overall, Mizzou finished with a strong .299 hitting percentage and were able to maintain a consistent attack that kept South Carolina on their heels.
Jordan Iliff led the Tigers today with 21 kills, two aces, and an absurd .455 hitting percentage. Janet deMarrais was next in line with 14 kills, and Dilara Gedikoglu and Morgan Isenberg each tallied nine kills in the match.
I was impressed today with the Tigers’ display of consistency. In most matches this year, they have had at least one set or long stretch where one or more aspects of their game dropped off. The attack showed up and made life for the Gamecocks defense extremely difficult for all four sets. While South Carolina picked up the pace in the last two sets, they were never clearly dominating the Mizzou defense.
This is an encouraging result as the Tigers move further into conference play, and was a strong response to the sweep at the hands of the Lady Vols in Knoxville. Mizzou will be back in action this Friday in Baton Rouge (which is French for red stick, by the way) when they face the LSU Tigers.