It was a successful weekend for Missouri as it went undefeated in the Tiger Invitational against Texas State, Ole Miss and BYU for the championship. Junior middle blocker Rosa Medrano won tournament MVP playing in her first three games as a Tiger.
Round robin tournaments often lack the intensity of bracket style tournaments because the last match is not always between the two best teams. This year's Tiger Invitational was different with Missouri and BYU sweeping Ole Miss and Texas State before meeting in the championship match Saturday at the Hearnes Center.
Medrano showed off her striking abilities Saturday, finishing the tournament with a .221 hitting percentage with 43 kills on 104 total attacks. The junior stepped up to take down the physical BYU frontline and solidify her case for the tournament MVP.
"You get a prize, and it feels really good," Medrano said.
Coach Wayne Kreklow was excited with Medrano's performance, as well as how the rest of his team handled the early season environment.
"Rosa was excited to get going and play," Kreklow said. "It's a big thrill to come into this environment. You have great teams, great players and a great crowd behind us."
Nothing came easy for either team, and every point had to be earned. Both teams showed signs of fatigue due to the long rallies that sometimes seemed endless.
"It was pretty apparent that a lot of people were taking lots of swings on both sides of the net, and it turned into a war in the trenches toward the end," Kreklow said.
Missouri's depth helped it power through for the win, especially with Medrano finding her groove and junior outside hitter Paola Ampudia making significant plays in her limited time.
"At the end Paola came in when (junior middle blocker) Catie (Wilson) and Rosa were getting gassed, and it's priceless to have someone that can come in like that," Kreklow said.
The Tigers came out strong in the first set, winning 25-21 with solid offensive play at the net. It was the most competitive first set for the Tigers in the tournament, with long rallies and solid attacks from the frontline.
BYU was able to shut down the Tigers offense in the second set 25-15, holding them to a .077 hitting percentage. The tall frontline for BYU employed three blockers who sometimes outsized Missouri's Medrano and Wilson.
Wilson racked up a .429 hitting percentage and was happy after the game with the team's early season confidence.
"This tournament was a huge confidence booster," Wilson said. "We came out and played like a team, and we surprised some people."
The Tigers led for the duration of the third set before Ampudia finished it off with two solid kills after only playing for a few points in the second set.
Heading into the fourth set, BYU was determined to even things up with physical play at the net. The struggle for points could have gone either way, but Missouri hit back with effective setting play from senior setter Lei Wang-Francisco (35 total assists) and attacks from Ampudia on the outside to jump out to an early lead.
Starting the season 3-0 is a confidence booster heading into next weekends' Utah Valley Invitational.
Kreklow admitted there are aspects of the Tigers game that still need to be worked on, including ball control and passing, but for now the players will soak it all in before getting back to practice this week.