Missouri volleyball looks to halt Kentucky offense

Kentucky’s talented hitters pose the greatest threat to a Missouri victory due to versatility and power.

No. 9 Missouri volleyball will follow up their 2-0 start to the season against the No. 3 Kentucky Wildcats, who opened their season 2-0 after facing Tennessee.

Missouri showed strong ability at both sides of the net during last week's wins over Alabama. Missouri distributed the ball well in both matches, giving Missouri’s hitters attack opportunities and forcing Alabama to cover different hitting lanes.

Anna Dixon and Kylie Deberg each averaged double-digit kills over the two matches, at 10 and 15.5 respectively. Tyanna Omazic led Missouri with 11 blocks and moved into the Missouri all-time blocks list.

Missouri should expect a strong push from Kentucky in their first match. Kentucky obliterated Tennessee in three sets by an average margin of victory of 9.67 in their season opener.

Kentucky, despite losing four-time All-American Leah Edmond, has a capable hitting squad that plays aggressively and can find holes in defenses with ease. They block and dig well enough, but their main defense is their offense.

They are effective in putting teams in compromising positions that are difficult to attack from. In their first match against Tennessee, Kentucky hit .426 for the game, compared to Tennessee’s paltry .152.

When Kentucky fails to hit, they pose less of a challenge for teams and can be overtaken by a good offense.

In their second match, Kentucky allowed Tennessee to compete through four sets. Without any breathing room, Kentucky struggled to find any rhythm and struggled through the match until set four as they committed 18 attack errors on 141 attempts, had 0 blocks and put up six service errors.

The Tennessee defense was just good enough to stunt the Kentucky offense, but their offense then committed 27 attack errors and kept them from sealing each set they played.

Missouri should look to capitalize on the slow adjustment of the Wildcats to get ahead early and often, which will shift momentum toward Missouri. Keeping the ball out of Kentucky’s court and forcing them to make defensive adjustments throughout the game will be key to Missouri’s success, and it has the talent and coaching to do that.

This task rests on Andrea Fuentes’ ability to distribute the ball to each of her hitters and to keep Kentucky guessing the same way that they forced Alabama to play.

Fuentes played well in her first two matches, averaging 36 assists a game.

Missouri will also have to play a cleaner match, as they committed 14 service errors and 17 attack errors Wednesday night against Alabama.

Edited by Jack Soble | jsoble@themaneater.com

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