Four-set loss to Kansas denies Missouri 3-0 road start to conference play

LAWRENCE, Kan. — Missouri volleybal was all set to recall the days of 2005 on Wednesday night against Kansas. In that gold standard season, the Tigers finished the year with a 25-5 record and fell just one win shy of a Final Four appearance.

The 2005 season was also the last time the Tigers opened the Big 12 season with a 3-0 road record, something Missouri was prepared to replicate with a win at the Horejsi Family Athletics Center against Kansas on Wednesday. But the Tigers were shell-shocked and sluggish in Lawrence, falling to the Kansas Jayhawks, 3-1.

With the loss, Missouri falls to 10-5 overall on the year and 2-3 in Big 12 play. Kansas improved to 11-5 (2-3).

In losses to No. 11 Iowa State and No. 13 Texas at home earlier in the conference season, Missouri’s inability to get kills hurt the Tigers down the stretch. In dropping the first two sets against Kansas, the numbers indicated that the offense wasn’t the problem against the Jayhawks. The Tigers hit a very respectable .256 through two sets, but still found themselves in a 2-0 hole at the break.

The irony of Missouri’s home/road splits isn’t exactly lost. The Tigers are 0-2 at home in conference play despite running out to first set victories and looking great out of the gates. But in all three conference road matches, the Tigers have struggled early, though they were able to rally against Texas Tech and Kansas State.

Missouri rallied to take the third set in front of a sellout crowd, but fell behind Kansas by at least six points on several occasions in the fourth set. Missouri pulled to within two points late in the set before the Jayhawks pulled away to take the final set, 25-21.

Though the Tigers hit .275 on the evening and had four players with double-digit kills, Missouri didn’t have a response for Kansas’ offensive efficiency for most of the night. Preseason All-Big 12 performer Karina Garlington got the bulk of the swings, attacking 44 times and finishing with a .364 hitting percentage. But the real star of the night was senior Jenna Kaiser, who finished the night with a mind-boggling .571 hitting percentage, complementing 16 kills with zero errors.

Senior Julianna Klein led Missouri with 18 kills and a .455 hitting percentage, a career high. Brittany Brimmage hit .440 on 13 kills. Paola Ampudia, who set a Big 12 four-set record for kills a season ago with 35, finished the night with 13 kills and received a large number of looks on the back-row attack. True freshman Lisa Henning, playing about half an hour outside of her home town of Blue Springs, Mo., had 11 kills on 29 swings.

The Tigers return home to the Hearnes Center on Saturday looking for their first home win in Big 12 play. First serve against Colorado is slated for 6:30 p.m.

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