Consistency proves key as Missouri volleyball makes quick work of Georgia at home

The Tigers completed a series sweep of the Bulldogs, rebounding after last week’s losses to build a foundation for a tournament run.

Until reporters asked him about it in a post-game press conference, Missouri volleyball coach Joshua Taylor didn’t know he never called timeout during tonight’s match against Georgia.

His eyes lit up, and a smile crossed his face.

“I thought about it a couple times, but we had to be tough and trust our training,” Taylor said. Each time that I decided not to call a timeout, my girls were pretty tough.”

Led by sophomore outside hitter Anna Dixon’s eight kills, sophomore middle blocker Claudia Dillon’s season-high .636 hitting percentage and senior outside hitter Kylie Deberg’s 15 kills, No. 25 Missouri cruised to a second consecutive three-set sweep of Georgia, a much-needed win to rebound from last weekend’s falterings against Tennessee.

“Those were two games we probably should not have dropped, but showing out this weekend reminds us who we are as a team and how high of a level we can play at,” Dillon said.

No adversity — be it overturned calls, falling behind early in sets or Georgia timeouts — seemed to phase the Tigers’ belief that they had yet to play their best volleyball.

That moment would come late in the third set when Dixon delivered a vicious block to a hard-hit Georgia return, padding the Missouri lead and virtually cinching a Tiger win.

“Even though it was late in the third set, it was still — wow,” Dillon said. “That was the play.”

For the second consecutive night, the Tigers received help from across the net. The Bulldogs struggled to consistently deliver serves, committing a season-high 14 service errors across the three sets.

Georgia felt the effects of its errors both on the scoreboard and in the battle for momentum on the court. Many of these mistakes became sparks for three or four point Missouri runs.

One example came in the first set when Missouri held a two point lead over the Bulldogs at the media break. After two straight Georgia errors that stretched the lead to four, coach Tom Black was forced to call another timeout.

The Tigers took full advantage, putting together a 4-2 run that ultimately led to a win in the first set.

After sitting Missouri’s last two series, redshirt junior setter Andrea Fuentes proved her worth to the Tiger offense. The junior used her chemistry with Deberg and Dixon to notch 29 assists on the night.

“I’m really proud of her. All the attackers were hitting a really high clip, and spreading out the opportunities really put so much stress on the opponent,” Taylor said.

Throughout the match, the Tigers stymied any Georgia attempt at a run, never trailing by more than four points at any given time.

“We did a really good job of staying confident, lifting each other up, and getting after it on our home court,” redshirt junior middle blocker Anna D’Cruz said.

One moment when Missouri toughed it out: While leading 20-14 late in the second set, Deberg was denied a kill three times, each by outstanding Georgia digs.

Deberg was relentless, and she finally found the floor on the fourth attempt.

When rubber met wood, the Hearnes Center erupted. Fans could hear Deberg’s cheer way up in the rafters.

Taylor believes the team’s consistency over the weekend is a direct product of a renewed focus on preparation.

“Whether they believe it or not, a match will always mirror your training. I thought these past few matches mirrored how well we trained leading up to this series,” Taylor said.

D’Cruz agrees, noting that “every day in practice matters.”

Moving forward, the Tigers hope to build on their Bulldog domination as they set their sights on next weekend’s doubleheader at South Carolina and ultimately an NCAA tournament run.

“If we keep doing that, we can continue to improve in these next six weeks,” Taylor said.

Edited by Jack Soble | jsoble@themaneater.com

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