Dec. 4, 2010

Courtesy of Missouri Athletics

For the second time in program history, the Mizzou volleyball team is headed to the Sweet 16 after defeating Northwestern, 3-1 (25-13, 22-25, 25-22, 25-20), in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at McLeod Center on the campus of Northern Iowa on Saturday (Dec. 4). Lisa Henning (Blue Springs, Mo.) led Mizzou with a career-best 18 kills while senior Paola Ampudia (Cali, Colombia) added 17. Henning hit a career-best .556 in the match and Ampudia hit .371 as Mizzou hit .369 in the match, its second-best clip of the season. Caitlyn Vann (Muncie, Ind.) also added 24 digs in the match.

"I felt like our hitters made good decisions throughout the match," head coach Wayne Kreklow said. "Molly did a great job distributing the ball. Our biggest concern heading into the match was how we could bounce back emotionally after that big win last night and I really challenged our group to suck it up and tough it out, and they did that tonight."

Mizzou will play next Friday against the winner of the Ohio/Duke match in University Park, Pa., marking the second time that Mizzou will play in the Regional Semifinals at Penn State. The last time it did so was 2005.

Aside from Henning and Ampudia, Mizzou got a big night from senior Julianna Klein (Keota, Iowa) who had 14 kills on .364 hitting while Brittney Brimmage (East St. Louis, Ill.) added eight kills on .333 hitting, giving Mizzou four hitters with eight or more kills on better than .333 hitting. Freshman setter Molly Kreklow (Delano, Minn.) spread 49 assists in the four sets as well. Vann was the only Tiger to finish with double digit digs as she had 24.

Despite playing a five-set match late last night, Mizzou came out firing in the first set, hitting .500 in the frame while getting kills from six different attackers as it ran away with the first, 25-13. Klein led the way with six kills on .667 hitting while Henning pitched in four kills on just five swings. Brimmage also added two kills on two swings as Kreklow dished 13 assists on 17 Tiger kills in the set. Vann anchored the back row in the first, pulling in seven digs to continue her frenetic pace as of late.

Despite the dominating fashion in which the Tigers took the first, Northwestern's attack improved in the second, nullifying a Tiger attack that posted 16 kills on .455 hitting in the frame. In fact, Northwestern tallied 22 kills in the set on .487 hitting and it claimed the second, 25-23, despite a late charge by the Tigers. The teams went into the intermission tied at one set apiece. Henning led all attackers with nine kills on .818 hitting through the first two sets.

Northwestern once again played at a very high level in the third set and eventually ran out to a 21-17 lead over the Tigers. But the Tiger block, sparked by back-to-back solos from Klein and Brimmage, kept Mizzou alive in the set. In fact, Mizzou went on the close the set on an 8-1 run to claim the crucial third set, 25-22.The Tiger attack continued to dominate, due in large part to Henning, who had five kills in the set. Mizzou also posted four blocks in the set as well as the defense seemed to click at the net.

Mizzou used improved defense to run away from Northwestern in the fourth, 25-20, claiming the match. The win marks the Tigers' second ever trip to the Sweet 16 and their first since 2005. Mizzou will play either Duke or Ohio in the round of 16 at Penn State. Coincidentally, the last time Mizzou made the Sweet 16, the regional was also at Penn State.