Mizzou’s drive to the NCAA Tournament continues this week with a Wednesday match against Texas Tech in Lubbock and a Saturday match against No. 8 Iowa State in Columbia. Here’s what coach Wayne Kreklow had to say about last week’s wins over OU and Colorado and the upcoming week:
On the 3-1 win over Colorado:
Overall, Colorado’s playing pretty well right now. They’re playing much better than they were early in the season. They played a pretty good match out there in Boulder. I thought they served well, they passed pretty well this time—the first time we played them they had trouble with passing a little bit. Honestly, I don’t think we were quite as mentally prepared for this one as we have been in the previous matches. I was a little concerned going in because we’ve had a good couple of weeks with the big win at home against Oklahoma—and I think it’s easy from a player’s standpoint to sometimes start focusing ahead. We told the players prior to the match that everybody in the Big 12 is good, that the records are deceiving and you can’t take anybody for granted. I think that had a lot to do with the closeness of the match.
On taking Texas Tech (2-23, 0-16) seriously:
We have to. Any time you’re playing on the road in the conference against anybody, you’ve got to be ready to go. People are always going to play better at home. At this time of year, for a team like Tech, they’ve really been out of the running for any postseason play for a long time. I mentioned this before we played at Colorado, it’s a lot easier to play when you’re not really playing for anything other than trying to get better and just trying to enjoy the time you have left in the season. Obviously, there’s no pressure on them. We’re on the road, we need to have this match to keep our postseason hopes alive. I don’t see how we could possibly overlook them. At the same time, you’re looking at somebody who hasn’t won a [Big 12] match yet. But if you go back and look at their game scores, they’re like Colorado—if they start passing well and if you let them run their stuff, they’re like anybody else—they can be tough to beat.
On Iowa State and Missouri’s ability to win any match:
They’re a very, very good team and they’re probably playing as well as anybody in the country right now. They’re on a roll, they’re peaking. It’s going to be a tall order for us. But we’re playing at home, and we tend to play well at home. It’ll be a big challenge, but the first time up there in Ames I felt like we were really competitive. I felt like we could have played a lot better than we did—we made a lot of errors. I would look at us at being kind of a wild card in the conference. We’re capable on any given night of knocking off anybody in the league. Now, there are a lot of factors that have to fall into place for that to happen, but I do feel like we’re capable. If we can get past Tech on Wednesday night, we’ve got two of our last three matches at home which certainly is helpful for us.
On Julianna Klein getting back into action:
When we were up at Iowa State, that was just before Jules had got sick. That was the first match we played with her not really feeling well. At that time, we still weren’t utilizing Paola like we have been. The more Jules plays, the better condition she’ll be in—she’s still struggling with that a little bit right now. And that’s something we’ve gotta work on in practice here to try to get her up to speed to help take the load off of Paola a little bit. Jules did a nice job over the weekend in Colorado—she was up at 15 kills, took 36 swings. So it’s been a long time since she’s been able to do that. And she was feeling the effects—it was obvious as the match wore on that they were serving her and making her work very hard. I felt like she got fatigued as the match went on. But hopefully that extra work will help her get back into physical condition down the stretch because we’ll need her. We need to be able to balance against the good teams.
On Paola Ampudia:
She was off against Colorado. Some of it fell on her shoulders—she could have done some things better. I think overall, for her, she’s gotta be in a rhythm and things have to be consistent. She made some unforced errors that she didn’t need to make or that could have been avoided. I think obviously ball control was a little shaky, Lei was off—there were all kinds of factors that played into each other. I felt in our match against Oklahoma, that was the first time in a long time that I felt we were all clicking at one time. But even in that one, Jules didn’t have one of her better matches. If we can hit on all cylinders, I think we’re capable of really competing well against anybody.
On whether there’s a benchmark in terms of wins:
Obviously, trying to get to .500 in conference is going to be a big benchmark. It’s going to come right down to the wire all the way through next Saturday for a lot of teams, not just us. I think Oklahoma, Baylor, and Texas A&M have a challenging last two weeks coming up. And I think what you can see is one team surge way ahead, one team drop way off…it’s going to be a kind of a crapshoot going down to the last two weeks. Our minimum goal is to finish .500. If we can get to 11-9 by knocking off two of the last three…and obviously, that’s where we go back to Tech. That’s a big one. That’s the key, I think, to the last three matches.