By Jack McGrath
The Missouri Tigers came back to beat the Texas A&M Aggies in a five-set thriller (16-25, 17-25, 25-18, 31-29, 15-12) on Sunday at the Hearnes Center. MU dropped the first two sets but won the next three to close out the match.
The Tigers, coming off a win over LSU in Baton Rouge, started off slowly. In the first two sets, Missouri hitters combined for 18 errors and struggled to put points away. Texas A&M’s Lauren Davis and Hollann Hans were forces at the net, and MU struggled to break through the brick wall their blocks created.
Missouri interim head coach Joshua Taylor mentioned there were spots in the match where the Tigers became hesitant and lost sight of how good they really are, leading to the slow start.
It wasn’t until the third set that MU was able to change the flow of the game. After some miscommunications on defense in the first couple sets, the decision was made to move redshirt senior Riley Sents to libero from her prior spot at defensive specialist to start set three.
“I think in the third set we kinda went back to doing what we do on our side of the net and controlling our unforced errors,” Sents said.
Sents brought energy to the court for the entire game, and said the team’s energy in the last three sets was key to turning the match around.
Taylor also credited the energy in the stadium for Missouri’s success and said he was grateful for the fans’ and marching band’s spirit throughout the match.
The fourth set was a seesaw affair that included 15 tie scores and four lead changes before MU was able to edge Texas A&M by a score of 31-29. According to Taylor, the Tigers used advice from a podcast featuring three-time Olympic gold medalist Karch Kiraly to stay mentally strong in the tight set.
“He [Kiraly] is talking about how if your trying to win a full match, it’s really a daunting task,” Taylor said. “If you break things up by each play and give yourself fully to that ten second moment then it’s not that daunting … If you go too far back or too far forward then you’re not focused on the right things.”
Using this strategy, Missouri was able to stay in the moment and pull out the clutch plays at the end of the set.
Tyanna Omazic was one of the players who changed the game in the fourth set. After landing on a net pole during warmups and injuring her ankle, then re-injuring that same ankle midway through the fourth set, she was forced to play tough.
Omazic limped off the court in the fourth set but returned five plays later to hit a line shot off of a slide and earn the kill on her first play back. She recorded 10 kills and three blocks in the match.
“She almost essentially put herself back in that match … so never question her toughness,” Taylor said.
The fifth set remained close, but MU was able to come out on top. It was an exhilarating win that the Tigers hope to build upon.
The Tigers improve to 10-3 on the year and 2-1 in SEC play. Their next matchup is at home on Wednesday at 7 p.m. against the University of Mississippi.
Texas A&M falls to 10-4 on the year and 2-2 in SEC play. Next, it will take on the University of South Carolina Gamecocks at home on Friday.
Edited by Emma Moloney | firstname.lastname@example.org