Tiger volleyball primed to make Big 12 Championship run

The Tigers' returning leaders and impressive recruitment class have raised expectations for the upcoming season.

With talented returning seniors and an impressive freshman recruiting class, the stage is set for Missouri volleyball to have a successful season in 2010. With each of the team’s five seniors employing much game experience, the added leadership should raise the team’s overall level of play.

Missouri will have to improve on an average 18-14 overall record and a 9-11 mark in conference play last season. The Tigers were unable to beat any of the ranked teams on their schedule and had some tough four set losses. But with five starters back from last year’s team, expectations around Columbia are high.

The Tigers return a bevy of talent featuring senior Caitlyn Vann, the team’s libero, senior Caitie Wilson, a 6-foot-3-inch middle blocker, and senior Julianna Klein, who is the Tigers' active leader in kills, attacks and service aces. With important positions all showcasing talented players, Missouri likely will have one of the most experienced rosters in the conference.

“Our goal is to win the Big 12 Championship, and we have as good a shot as anyone,” Vann said. “I feel like you can’t teach experience, and our team is really mature.”

Senior outside hitter Paola Ampudia, a potential Big 12 Player of the Year candidate, led Missouri with 411 kills last season. Ampudia will be the key to tough matches and will certainly draw the attention of opposing coaches and players.

“There is pressure on me this year, but if we have more focus step by step, then we will have better results,” Ampudia said. “My goal is for us to beat Texas and Nebraska, and we can make it if we continue working hard.”

Two enormous tests for the Tigers this season will be against the Texas Longhorns and the Nebraska Cornhuskers. The Longhorns have won the Big 12 Championship the past three seasons, and the Cornhuskers are coming off an impressive 16-4 record last year.

“Our conference is brutal with Texas and Nebraska as elite teams,” coach Wayne Kreklow said. “We aren’t deep, but we have good players and good talent so we’re crossing our fingers we stay healthy.”

Recruiting is always a key to success, and how a team gets continually better. With the recruitment of incoming freshmen Lisa Henning and Molly Kreklow, Missouri shows it can draw prime time recruits.

“I hope to do whatever for the team, whether it’s coming in back row or helping the team run the offense,” Kreklow said.

As long as the Tigers can remain healthy and gain team chemistry throughout the year, a successful season and another NCAA tournament berth are within reach.

The Tigers will open up their season at the Tiger Invitational on Aug. 27 and 28, where they will square off against Maryland, Nevada and Utah Valley. Missouri opens their conference schedule at Texas Tech on Sept. 15.

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