After a perfect 8-0 start to the regular season, Missouri volleyball has struggled to avoid making critical errors, which has led to the Tigers dropping four of their last six matches.
Once as high as No. 17 in the AVCA poll, the Tigers have fallen every week since and now sit at No. 25 with just a five-point edge over San Diego, the first team out. However, a 6-10 Auburn team might be just what Missouri needs to turn things around Friday night.
The recent struggles can be easily justified. The Tigers have played No. 1 Baylor, No. 16 Kentucky and No. 22 Hawaii in a span of a month, but the way Missouri has competed in these matches has been a matter of concern.
During Missouri’s last match, a loss to Ole Miss, the Tigers committed a season-high 36 total errors. It was not a match the Tigers were expected to lose, but giving the opponent almost a set and a half of free points put Missouri in a hole it could not climb out of.
Afterwardsthe match, interim head coach Joshua Taylor insisted the Tigers would regroup during Missouri’s longest break between matches it will have all year.
“We need to work on everything,” Taylor said. “When we make mental errors, it leads to us losing. It will also be huge getting (Tyanna Omazic) back.”
Omazic missed Missouri’s last match with a lower ankle injury, but Taylor said he expects her to play Friday at Auburn. The 6-foot-2 middle blocker from Kansas City has been a dominant force for the Tigers this season. She ranks third on the team in kills and 21st in the nation in hitting percentage.
The added production will be significant against an Auburn team that has only won one set in five conference matches. Six of Auburn’s 10 losses have been in straight sets and it has struggled at home, winning only once in five contests. Auburn ranks last in the SEC in hitting percentage and kills, while Missouri ranks first in kills and fifth in hitting percentage.
The drastic differences in offense could lead to a big road win for Missouri. Kylie Deberg, the SEC leader in kills with 268, will look to attack an Auburn team which ranks ninth in opponents hitting percentage.
Missouri leads the all-time series against Auburn 11-1 and has not lost to Auburn since joining the SEC in 2012. Missouri defeated Auburn in straight sets during the two teams’ most recent meeting last season in Auburn. Missouri has the offense to travel to Auburn and put away its opponent in three sets once again.
First serve is scheduled for 7 p.m. inside of Auburn Arena. Fans in mid-Missouri can watch live on SEC Network, and out-of-area fans can stream the match on WatchESPN.
The Tigers will continue play with a quick trip back to Columbia for a 2 p.m. matchup Sunday against Tennessee at the Hearnes Center. Missouri will host its annual Pink Out game supporting the fight against cancer, and the first 500 fans admitted into the arena will receive pink headbands.