Missouri’s hitting the stretch run here, with six important games coming up that should determine whether the Tigers make it back to the NCAA Tournament or not. Every match, every set, every point is going to be important from here on out. Here’s what coach Wayne Kreklow had to say about the stretch run, among other topics:
On looking ahead:
When you look at big picture things like overall record, obviously that’s something that we’re really shooting for. We know we’ve got some tough matches ahead of us…nobody’s easy in the Big 12. And when you have Iowa State, Baylor, and Oklahoma all at home and Texas A&M on the road, it’s gonna be tough. It’s certainly doable—I think we’re certainly capable of doing that, but we’re going to have to get to work and really focus on one step at a time. It’s easy at this time of the year to look ahead and start doing math and all the what-ifs and that kind of stuff. You really have to avoid looking too far ahead—we just have to take it one at a time here.
On whether matches at Colorado (Nov. 14) and Texas Tech (Nov. 18) could be traps:
Absolutely. Those two matches, particularly on the road, are pretty scary matches. You can easily focus too much on the others—Iowa State, Baylor, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma. And Colorado and Texas Tech are good teams, they’re just in a really tough conference this year. They’re certainly capable of knocking off a lot of people at home. We’ve gotta make sure we don’t look too far ahead.
On how the team played despite losing to Nebraska and Texas last week:
One of the things we keep focusing on here as we go into the last couple of weeks is that we’re really playing some pretty good volleyball. We’ve played some tough teams—when you take a look at [recent] losses we’ve had, we’ve lost to Texas at home and Nebraska on the road. Even with the exception of game two against Texas, which was kind of an anomaly—the bottom fell out, and that happens sometimes—we’ve been playing fairly well, with the exception of that single game. You really have to be careful in this conference because at times the result doesn’t accurately reflect how you’re playing. So I’m hoping our players understand how well we really are playing and how capable we are of beating a lot of teams.
On how Texas shut down Paola Ampudia but opened doors for other players to have success:
Texas did a really nice job of finding Paola. She’s not going to sneak up on anybody anymore. What happened in the Texas match was ball control was a little off—we weren’t quite in rhythm as we were in some of the earlier matches. Paola was getting the ball, but wasn’t getting it quite in the same location at the same tempo. We’ve gotta play with a certain tempo, especially against a huge team like Texas. And we were a little bit too slow, Paola was getting the ball a little high, and it gave them just enough time to make it seem like they always had a really big block on her.
But Jules got some more swings and put the ball away. The last couple of matches, Rosa’s actually been hitting the ball fairly well. I think what we’re going to have to do here is go back and start having a plan ‘B.’ Often what we do—and this is a common thing, all coaches do it—as we’re getting ready to play the next match, obviously what you do is go back and say “okay, if I was the coach for the other team, how would I prepare to try to beat Missouri?” Obviously, based on what Paola has done the last three or four weeks, that would be a big component—how do we slow her down? How do we serve to take her out of the offense? How do we block to force some of the other players to have to carry the load? Those are the things we look at when we go down to the practice floor. We’ve now gotta figure out a way to get the ball more to Catie, Rosa, and Jules in particular.
On how important it is to be able to turn to his team’s depth when Paola is shut down:
That’s a big help. I’d certainly rather be in our situation now where they’re going to key on Paola and try to take her out of the offense and we can look to Catie, Rosa, and Jules. We have some other options. What we have to do now is run the offense, look at the options, and make sure those people are prepared come match time so they feel comfortable and are in a good rhythm when they start getting the ball.
On the back row and doing the little things:
We’ve gotta be more consistent. Prior to Texas, I thought we had been really, really solid in the back row. I felt like against Texas, we were a little bit scattered. It wasn’t one thing, and it wasn’t really bad, but there were too many swings between good and marginal. What we’ve gotta be able to do as a team is each person needs to focus on the little aspects of their game to try to make everybody’s job easier. We need our defensive players to try to control the first touches, to make Lei’s job a little easier. Lei needs to control her tempo and placement to make the hitters’ job a little bit easier. Blockers need to do their job so the defenders have a little easier job to do, and so on. We’re going to continue to focus each position on those little things. We don’t need anybody to step up and do amazing things at this point, we just need for everybody to step up and have everybody do the little things better.