Dec. 4, 2010

COLUMBIA, Mo. -

Courtesy of Missouri Athletics

The Mizzou volleyball team defeated fifth-seeded Northern Iowa, 3-2 (25-19, 17-25, 26-24, 26-28, 15-10), in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Cedar Falls, Iowa, on Friday night at McLeod Center. The win advances the Tigers to the second round of the NCAA Tournament as they will play against Northwestern tomorrow at 4 p.m. The win for the Tigers over the fifth-seeded Panthers marks the highest national seed to lose in the first round since the NCAA began seeding teams back in 2000.

The win for Mizzou is its first five-set win in the NCAA Tournament in nine total tournament appearances. Mizzou had been 0-5 in five-set matches in the NCAA Tournament before Friday. The win also improves Mizzou to 7-8 in NCAA Tournament play and 5-4 in the first round. The win marls first time that Mizzou has knocked of a national seed in the first round of the tournament as was the Panthers' first home loss of the season.

"It's one of those matches where we are really happy that we won, but it is sad to see one of the teams lose because both played so well," head coach Wayne Kreklow said. "I just feel really fortunate that we were able to be on the winning side of this tonight. What you need to do is try and stay focused and not get caught up in the emotion of the moment and this was really an endurance contest emotionally and mentally more than it was physically. You could use the word `epic' to describe this kind of match."

Paola Ampudia (Cali, Colombia) was one of four players with 12 or more kills as she posted a team-high 22 kills. Senior libero Caitlyn Vann (Muncie, Ind.) also pulled in 35 digs in the match, good for her second straight match with at least 35 digs. The Tiger offense was in sync all night long and in the three sets that they won, the Tigers had just two attack errors in each. Aside from Ampudia, who had 22 kills on .224 hitting, Mizzou got a huge performance from Brittney Brimmage (East St. Louis, Ill.), who finished with 12 kills on a match-high .522 hitting with three blocks. Senior Julianna Klein (Keota, Iowa) and freshman Lisa Henning (Blue Springs, Mo.) also pitched in 12 kills apiece.

Freshman setter Molly Kreklow (Delano, Minn.) quarterbacked the Tiger offense with 56 assists, helping Mizzou hit .254 in the match. She spread the ball to seven different attackers in the match and finished with a career-best 18 digs for her 12th double-double of the season. Klein (12 kills, 12 digs) and Ampudia (22 kills, 17 digs) also had double-doubles in the match.

The Tiger back row shined in the match, pulling in 96 digs, a season-best. Vann anchored the back row with 35 digs while four others finished in double figures. Priscilla Armendariz (Blue Springs, Mo.) added 12 digs in the match as well to go along with the other four in double-figures.

Northern Iowa came out and rode its largest crowd of the season to a 5-1 lead in the first, forcing Mizzou to take a timeout. The Tigers countered with adjustments and went on a 10-1 run following the timeout, taking an 11-6 lead. Mizzou spread its offense to a variety of different attackers throughout the set and claimed the first, 25-19.

The Mizzou offense was as good as it had been all season in the first as it hit .385 and six different Tigers tallied kills in the set, led by five from Ampudia, who kept UNI off balance with her back-row attack. Henning and Klein added three kills apiece and Mizzou as a team committed just two attack errors in the first. Conversely, UNI committed eight in the first, due in large part to a Tiger block that tallied three in the set. Vann led the back row with seven digs in the set.

The teams played somewhat of reverse roles in the second set as it was Mizzou that ran out to an early advantage at 7-1. But just like Mizzou did in the first, UNI rallied to take a lead on the Tigers at 12-11, its first since 5-4 in the first. UNI's hitting improved in the second as it hit .286 with 15 kills and it claimed the second, 25-17. Although UNI's offense was better in the second, Mizzou's offense was the story of the second as it tallied just seven kills while committing seven errors. Through two sets, Ampudia led all attackers with 10 kills on 34 swings, hitting .292.

The third set was arguably the most competitive of the match as neither team could pull away, but the play of the Tiger seniors down the stretch was crucial as Klein tallied the final kill of the set on a right-side attack, giving Mizzou the set, 26-24. Vann also made several key digs down the stretch to force crucial sideouts, helping Mizzou claim the set. Ampudia led Mizzou with seven kills in the set while Brimmage added four. Vann also tallied eight digs in the set.

Mizzou claimed the first point of the fourth on the longest rally of the match, but UNI took the next four points. But the teams once again played in another tight set throughout as it once again went to extra points. Mizzou's defense played very well in the set, highlighted by 12 digs from Vann, but UNI took the fourth, 28-26, despite the effort. The fourth-set win for UNI sent Mizzou to its third five-set match this season and second-straight after losing to Oklahoma in the regular season finale.

But the Tigers' fate was different from the OU match on Friday as Brimmage posted several huge kills in the fifth, helping Mizzou escape with a 15-10 set win.

Mizzou will play Northwestern at 4 p.m. tomorrow at the McLeod Center. Mizzou All-Access will have the call live, free of charge at MUTigers.tv. For all the latest on Mizzou volleyball, stay tuned to MUTigers.com.