Missouri volleyball’s efficient attack buries Ole Miss
After trading blows with Ole Miss throughout the second set, Missouri senior Melanie Crow walked to the back of the court to begin her serve.
The outside hitter took a few quick steps and fired a bullet over the net that landed in the middle of the Rebels’ defense for the point. She then produced a kill and another ace.
“I tried to be more aggressive toward the end,” Crow said. “I think I was just playing a little safe at the beginning.”
Crow’s attack was followed by a barrage of strikes from Missouri’s side of the net. The Tigers (11-7, 4-1 SEC) would launch a 7-0 run midway through the set to crack open an eight-point lead on their way to a 3-0 (25-17, 25-19, 25-15) home victory over Ole Miss (12-7, 3-3) on Sunday.
“When we’re getting runs like that, the momentum is on our side,” middle blocker Kayla Caffey said. “The way we think of it is, we do games to five – five, 10, 15. That’s how we’re playing in our heads, trying to get a string of points going. I think that’s the best way to play a volleyball game.”
The run would give the Tigers a commanding 18-11 lead in a set that was defined early by seven ties and two lead changes. With Ole Miss on its heels, Missouri capitalized on a series of service and attack errors to cruise the rest of the way.
“We forced them into making a lot of errors,” coach Wayne Kreklow said. “I think they got into a situation where, especially from the service line, they missed 10 serves. You kind of get yourself in a situation where if you’re not serving tough and being really aggressive, you’re going to lose the rally anyway because we were siding out at such a high percentage.”
Ole Miss would end the afternoon with 14 attack errors, in addition to 10 service errors. Its poor hitting percentage of .229 crippled the Rebels’ comeback chances as the lead began to slip away.
The Tigers’ offensive attack is what really doomed the Rebels. Five Missouri players tallied seven or more kills. Caffey led the team with 10 on just 11 attacks.
“I was just playing volleyball,” Caffey said. “I was trying my hardest to just get off the net fast and be an open option for my setters. That’s what was going through my head. I was just trying to be the best middle hitter I can be.”
Missouri achieved a .437 hitting percentage while racking up 46 kills on 42 assists. The Tigers flexed their depth as Caffey, Alyssa Munlyn and Dariana Hollingsworth all scored double-figure points. Crow and Kira Larson also chipped in with 9.5 points each.
“That’s one of our strengths right now. We have a lot of options, and we have a lot of depth,” Kreklow said. “If we’re executing, we’re a hard team to try to figure out. If you get this one a couple of times, we can go here, then we can go there. I like to see that balance.”
After a slew of injuries limited Crow, senior outside hitter Sydney Deeken and freshman outside hitter Leketor Member-Meneh, the Tigers are returning to full strength.
The return of those contributors have helped Missouri reel off four straight conference wins after a rough nonconference slate and a narrow loss to No. 10 Kentucky in the SEC opener.
“It’s just part of the game, so the only thing you can do is keep practicing and keep working,” Kreklow said. “Not only do you miss them in the games, but they can’t practice. Once we got them back in and we’re able to practice a little bit more, you can get into a little more of a rhythm and a flow.”
The victory extended Missouri’s active winning streak over Ole Miss to three, which couldn’t make Crow — a former Rebel — any happier.
“I still like beating them, no doubt,” Crow said. “I always want to beat them, but I also always want to beat everyone. We still have a lot more to work on, and we just to need to become more consistent all the way around. There’s always things to improve on.”
Missouri returns to the court at 6:30 p.m. Friday to host Mississippi State. The game will be broadcast on SEC Network+.
Supervising editor is Jaime Dunaway.