By Joyce Peng, KBIA Sports
Missouri will start defending their SEC championship Friday as a team that has so much potential to improve.
Coach Wayne Kreklow said having room for improvement is a good thing. If he thought the team has already reached its full capacity, then he would be worried.
The Tigers are gaining insight on how they want to operate the offense and the rhythm they want to play at. The coach sees this as one area of the team’s potential, but the team struggles on ball control consistency.
“When we pass the ball well and handle the ball well we become a really pretty good team and I think that’s probably the biggest area,” Kreklow said. “We got to get more consistent with the passing and the first touch so we put our setters in the position to make their jobs a little bit easier.”
Another consistency the team needs to gain is launching runs. In preconference games, the Tigers had trouble producing multiple runs, and let opponents go on enough runs to earn an insurmountable lead.
Besides improving game play, the Tigers are also working on attaining strong mindsets. Sophomore outside hitter Carly Kan said their psychologist Dr. Scotta Morton meets with them on Tuesdays. They are starting new things such as pre-game activities and team and individual time. Kan said she had already talked to Morton twice, and said one presentation Morton showed really stuck with her was about resilience.
“She had prepared this Powerpoint for us we had seen an example of the Marines and what they have to do to just pass through a couple of tests,” Kan said. “That was a mindset change for me. We need to be more resilience we can’t just let teams roll over us without us giving a play.”
The Tigers also found different ways to improve in a players-only meeting. It is there, Kan said, that the team talked about taking ownership and be accountable for one’s actions, as well as looking for more ways to contribute to the team.
Middle blocker Whitney Little said the team views conference play as a clean state, coming into the SEC with a new attitude and a little pride. The Tigers are technically undefeated in the SEC, and Little says pride in their perfect record contributes to their excitement for conference play.
The Tigers will test out their improvements they have been working on against Mississippi State and Tennessee this weekend. Both teams have a higher average of digs than Missouri, with Mississippi State’s freshmen libero Payton Harris leading the nation with 390 digs. But Missouri leads them in areas such as hitting percentage, kills per set and assists per set.
Wayne Kreklow said the two teams are facing trouble similar to Missouri with inconsistent serving and passing, based on both teams’ service aces and reception errors. But he said the Tigers need to play carefully because the two teams might be better than the stats indicate.
The first SEC game of the season starts 6:30 Friday against Mississippi State at the Hearnes Center. The Tigers will then face Tennessee 11:00 Sunday.