Missouri’s four-game winning streak was snapped Wednesday in a heartbreaking loss against Florida, but the Tigers can’t mourn for long as they travel to College Station on Sunday for a 2 p.m. matchup against a tough Texas A&M team.
The Tigers and Aggies are no strangers to each other. The two teams have met a total of 47 times, with Texas A&M leading the series with 30 victories. However, recent matchups have gone Missouri’s way.
Missouri defeated Texas A&M Oct. 6 at the Hearnes Center. After falling behind 2-0, Missouri pulled off a heist to win three sets in a row. The win markedthe fourth straight victory for the Tigers over the Aggies.
However, Texas A&M has been on a roll since dropping that match. The Aggies have gone 5-1 since, only losing to No. 13 Florida in five sets. On Friday, Texas A&M defeated No. 15 Kentucky in four sets to improve to 7-3 in the SEC, a half-game ahead of Missouri for fourth place in the conference. The Aggies have played especially well at home, winning seven of eight at Reed Arena this season.
The Aggies are led by outside hitter Hollann Hans, who ranks second in the SEC in kills with 320. Hans only trails Missouri’s Kylie Deberg, who has a slight edge with 331 kills for the season.
For the second match in a row, the Tigers will be facing a top-ranked defensive team. The Aggies rank third in the SEC in opponents hitting percentage and second in blocks. Florida, which ranks higher than Texas A&M in both categories, recorded 13 total blocks that disrupted the Missouri offense. The Tigers were held to a hitting percentage of just .274, snapping their run of three-straight matches hitting above .300.
The Tigers will have to make sure this isn’t a problem Sunday. The best way to avoid the hands of blockers is to become more balanced on offense. In the loss to Florida, Missouri became overly dependent on Deberg, and Florida forced her to take bad angles on her shots.
Missouri will need to emphasize Tyanna Omazic and Dariana Hollingsworth-Santana in the offense more if it wants to win in a tough environment. In conference-only matches, Hollingsworth-Santana leads the SEC in hitting percentage at .394. Overall, Omazic ranks second in the SEC with a .412 hitting percentage. Both hitters have been efficient when given opportunities, and the Tigers need to make sure they get more.
Missouri can’t afford another conference loss. A defeat would push the team into a three-way tie for seventh place in the SEC and drop the Tigers outside the AVCA Top 25. The chances are slim with the loss to Florida on Wednesday, but Missouri still has the possibility of hosting the first round of the NCAA Tournament with a 9-0 or 8-1 finish in conference play.
The Tigers currently rank 22nd in the RPI, and the NCAA selects the top 16 teams to host the first round of the tournament. With matches against Texas A&M, Kentucky and Tennessee still on the schedule, Missouri still controls its destiny for a chance to move up and claim a host bid.
But, it will have to start with the Aggies on Sunday. First serve will be at 2 p.m. and fans can stream the match live on WatchESPN.Following Texas A&M, the Tigers will continue their road trip with matches against Alabama and Georgia. Missouri won’t return to the Hearnes Center until a Nov. 15 rematch with the Crimson Tide.