Posted: 3:12 p.m. Monday, Oct. 21, 2013
By Bill C.
Mizzou 3, Georgia 1
MUtigers.com: No. 18 Tigers Move to 22-0, Setting Up SEC Clash vs. No. 2 Gators
MUtigers.com: Special Season has led to Special Match Sunday
The Trib: Win over Georgia sets stage for showdown
The Missourian: Henning leads Missouri volleyball to 22nd straight win
Mizzou Network: HIGHLIGHTS: Tigers Beat Georgia
Mizzou 3, Florida 1
MUtigers.com: No. 18 Tigers Upend No. 2 Florida, 3-1
The Trib: MU volleyball stuns No. 2 Florida to remain unbeaten
KC Star: Undefeated Missouri volleyball team stuns No. 2 Florida
The Missourian: Missouri volleyball upsets No. 2 Florida to stay perfect
The Maneater: Mizzou volleyball upsets No. 2 Gators, stays undefeated
Mizzou Network: HIGHLIGHTS: Tigers Upset #2 Florida
Mizzou Network: POSTGAME: Wayne Kreklow after beating Florida
With Mizzou's 3-1 win over Florida on Sunday, the Tigers moved to 23-0 overall, 7-0 in the SEC. Obviously that's ridiculously impressive and now easily the best start in Mizzou's history. But that still doesn't tell the whole story of how dominant Wayne Kreklow's Tigers, now ranked 11th in the AVCA poll, have been.
(Yes, somehow Missouri's still just 11th, a few points ahead of 17-0 Colorado State. Whip Florida, move up ... seven spots. Hooray, disrespect fuel.)
Let's do make some quick comparisons to the 2010 Sweet 16 team and the 2005 Elite 8 team.
|Opponents' Attack Pct.||.195||.233||.167|
|Aces per Set||1.8||1.1||1.8|
|Digs per Set||16.2||16.2||14.0|
|Blocks per Set||2.7||1.9||2.6|
|Ball Handling Errors/match||1.2||0.7||0.6|
That's right. Mizzou has yet to even play a fifth set. It's not that they're winning matches; they're dominating them. Five times, they've entered the halftime break tied at a set apiece; they are 10-0 in third and fourth sets in those instances. This team starts strong and almost finishes stronger.
In 2005, All-American setter Lindsey Hunter averaged 14.2 assists and 0.9 kills per set with a .328 attack percentage. In 2013, Molly Kreklow is averaging 12.4 assists and 0.8 kills per set with a staggering .440 attack percentage.
In 2005, four of Mizzou's five primary attackers had attack rates of at least .267. (Middle blocker Nicole Wilson led the way at .402.) In 2010, three of the top five were at .278 or better. In 2013, the top five are all at .341 or better. This is an absurdly efficient team, ending points as quickly as possible but still blocking as many shots as the 2005 team (with fewer opportunities) and playing strong defense in back.
So how is this team this good? We expected Mizzou to certainly compete for a decent NCAA Tournament bid with seniors Kreklow and Lisa Henning leading the way, but it's fair to say that 23-0 was a bit of a surprise. Last year's team had no seniors, and with the experience from Kreklow and Henning and juniors Whitney Little, Emily Wilson, and Sarah Meister, improvement was all but guaranteed. But two freshmen from Honolulu (Carly Kan and Loxley Keala) and a third freshman from Springfield (6'3 middle blocker Emily Thater) have made incredible, immediate contributions, turning an experienced team into one of the country's deepest. This recruiting class was supposed to be one of Kreklow's best; we just didn't know that it would become so good, so quickly.
There are plenty of challenges still to come for this team, and that's good. Mizzou plays at LSU (13-5, 3-3 in conference, 16th in last week's RPI) on Friday and at Texas A&M (10-8, 2-5, 50th) on Sunday, returns home to play Ole Miss (11-10, 1-7) and Kentucky (13-4, 5-1, 15th in this week's AVCA poll) the week after, then embarks on a pretty mean road stretch, finishing the regular season with five of six away from Hearnes before a Senior Night visit from Arkansas. The odds of Mizzou finishing undefeated aren't great, but that's hardly the point. Mizzou proved its bona fides this weekend and, accordingly, got quite the bump in the polls. But the legitimacy of this team, on both offense and defense, could mean that Missouri is playing well into December, polls be damned.