COLUMBIA — Down to match point for the second time of the night, and only the second time all season, the Missouri volleyball team still thought it would defeat Purdue and advance to the third Sweet 16 in program history.
By GEOFFREY CALVERT
Special to The Star
The Tigers had just fought off a 22-19 deficit, and with the support of the Hearnes Center crowd, it looked like Missouri might be able to nab the fourth set and push the match to a decisive set.
But the Boilermakers, 22-11, wouldn’t give Missouri any more chances to squash the upset.
After Missouri’s Carly Kan fought off Purdue’s first match point with one of her match-high 18 kills, the Boilermakers used a solo block by Val Nichol and an attack error by Missouri’s Emily Wilson to eliminate the Tigers in the second round of the NCAA Tournament and hand Missouri, 35-1, its first loss of the year.
Purdue won 18-25, 25-23, 16-25, 25-27.
“I think we had confidence up until the last points, and that’s what good teams do,” senior setter Molly Kreklow said. “It may not have gone our way, but I think up until the last point we thought we were going to win.”
The Tigers, who hadn’t lost more than one set to any opponent all season, refused to wilt in that fourth set. Lisa Henning and Julia Towler teamed for two blocks in a span of three points and tied the fourth set at 22, then consecutive kills by Wilson and Towler gave Missouri set point.
Purdue responded with three straight points to gain its first match point and then wrapped up the victory moments later.
“Some days it’s your day and some days it’s somebody else’s,” Missouri coach Wayne Kreklow said. “It was hard to just kind of get things going on a consistent basis for us.”
The Tigers made some costly out-of-character mistakes throughout the night. The Tigers, who entered the match hitting .361, could only manage to swing .237 and committed 20 attack errors while hitting 53 kills. Purdue hit .352 with 62 kills and 18 errors.
The Boilermakers outblocked Missouri 12-8, including 5-0 in a dominant third-set victory.
“It’s frustrating for us as attackers when you go up there and every time you swing they’re getting a touch,” Henning said. “I think that’s something that they did really well is they weren’t letting anything drop.”
Beside Kan’s 18 kills, Henning contributed 12 and Wilson 11. Nichol paced Purdue with 14 kills, while three others joined her in double figures.
“Often what happens when you’re playing somebody new, is you’re trying to figure out tempo, timing, rhythm, particularly in blocking,” Wayne Kreklow said. “I thought they did a good job there setting the ball off the net and swinging hard.”