In one of the most important matches of its 2019 season, Missouri was lifeless.
No. 14 Kentucky established its dominance early and built upon it through mistakes Missouri couldn’t help but make. In the end, it was a straight-sets loss for the Tigers, Missouri’s second defeat to Kentucky in three sets this season.
The ugly match boiled down to the Tigers’ disastrous second set. Missouri dropped the first set 25-18, but showed its ability to compete with the Wildcats. However, the second set was a completely different story.
Nothing Missouri did seemed to work. Tigers attackers couldn’t escape the hands of Wildcats blockers, which resulted in one of Missouri’s worst offensive sets of the season. Missouri committed 12 attacking errors and finished the set with a hitting percentage of just .029. Kentucky finished the set with five blocks. With 12 attacking errors and five blocks, 17 points were awarded to Kentucky on potential kill opportunities for the Tigers.
“Tonight was definitely disappointing,” coach Joshua Taylor said in a press release. “We entered the match tonight really rolling and playing great volleyball. We started off well, but as a whole tonight we couldn’t get into rhythm.”
Missouri played well in set three and had the game tied at 21 apiece. But a crucial service error by Katie Tuner gave Kentucky the lead and Missouri didn’t score again in its 25-21 third set loss.
After four straight victories, Wednesday night’s loss was a surprising performance. The Tigers were coming off two straight sweeps and players had said the team was playing its best volleyball of the season.
Freshman Kenna Sauer made her first appearance for the Tigers since Oct. 6 in the second set. She made two attacking errors in her only two attempted attacks, finishing the night hitting -1.000. One of the errors gave Kentucky the clinching point in the second set.
Missouri’s regular offensive leaders also struggled, though. Kylie Deberg made 12 total errors and hit just .081. Leketor Member-Meneh finished the night hitting .000 after committing four attack errors on only four kills.
The Kentucky defense kept Missouri’s offense from ever getting into a groove. The threat of getting blocked forced Missouri attackers to take sharp attacking angles, resulting in balls being hit out of bounds. Kentucky finished the game with 12.5 total blocks.
Tyanna Omazic had one of the few good individual performances for Missouri, as the middle blocker recorded eight kills on .615 hitting. Kayla Caffey also continued her hot streak with seven kills on .429 hitting.
However, Omazic and Caffey only got a combined 27 attacking attempts compared to Deberg and Memebr-Meneh’s 57.
Missouri’s loss dropped it to 18-7 on the season and 10-5 in SEC play. Missouri now sits in fifth place in the SEC.
The defeat also ended the Tigers’ hopes of hosting the first and second round of the NCAA Tournament. There are not enough high-quality matchups remaining on the schedule for Missouri to make the necessary jump needed to claim a top-16 seed.
Overall, Kentucky had more points, kills, a higher hitting percentage, assists, service aces and total blocks. The only two categories Missouri led in were attacking errors and service errors.
Missouri finished the match hitting just .127, its lowest hitting percentage of the season. The Tigers also committed 31 total errors.
“We need to put this one in the rearview mirror quick, as we have another tough road test this Sunday at Tennessee,” Taylor said.
Tennessee is 12-12 on the season and 6-8 in conference play. The Tigers defeated the Volunteers earlier this season in four sets Oct. 20 inside the Hearnes Center.
Missouri will be back on the court at 1 p.m. against Tennessee on Sunday in Knoxville. The match will broadcast live on SEC Network.