It was a glaring problem during player introductions as junior outside hitter Julianna Klein stood next to her teammates in warm-ups. Scratched from the lineup Friday with the flu, Klein watched the visiting Nebraska Cornhuskers beat Missouri in four sets (25-17, 25-15, 21-25, 25-13).
Missouri came into the match looking to extend its home winning streak to nine for the first time since 2002, but it was met with tough defense from the Cornhuskers who totaled 66 total digs.
Nebraska has dominated the Big 12 since the formation of the conference and has taken care of business against Missouri. Coach John Cook has only seen his Cornhuskers lose to the Tigers once during the tenure of Missouri coaches Wayne and Susan Kreklow.
Junior outside hitter Paola Ampudia carried the load for the offense, recording a season-high 21 kills on 61 attacks for a .262 hitting percentage. Ampudia also tallied 13 digs and 3.5 blocks.
"She did just a phenomenal job, and she is a player who seems to get better with the more swings she gets," Wayne Kreklow said. "To be able to do what she did against the team she played tonight was really phenomenal."
Junior middle blocker Weiwen Wang moved into Klein's spot at outside hitter, a position she had never played. Despite the shift, Wang recorded eight kills on 29 total attacks and provided pressure on the Cornhuskers backline with two aces.
Wang was modest in her responses after the game.
"I think I didn't do very well because it wasn't a position I play, and I just came out to help the team," Wang said.
Throughout the match, the absence of Klein was noticeable with Wang and junior outside hitter Rosa Medrano paying out of position.
Senior setter Lei Wang-Francisco dished out 41 assists to seven different players and noted the difference in play without Klein.
"We have a different lineup, and we had to fill the role, so we had people doing what they aren't used to doing," Wang-Francisco said.
It was clear from the beginning that Ampudia was tapped by Kreklow to perform above and beyond for Missouri as she recorded seven kills in the first set. Nebraska proved too strong and hit .375 on the attack with only three errors.
The second set was much of the same as the Cornhuskers had two players with hitting percentages above .500 and four above .300.
Missouri was showed it could compete with a 25-21 win in the third set. The Tigers punished the Nebraska backline with good sets and attacks with power. Ampudia alone contributed 9.5 of her total points in the set, and the Tigers fed off the energy from the Hearnes Center crowd.
"We had the mentality of there's nothing to lose," Wang-Francisco said.
The last set saw a downturn in the Tiger attack as Nebraska continued to catch the Missouri backline off-guard. Eight straight points put Nebraska up 7-17, and it closed out the set 25-13.
Nebraska had a clear size advantage over the Tigers with 11 six-footers on their roster, but Missouri played tough at the net with nine total blocks to the Cornhuskers' six.
Kreklow noted the competitiveness of his team against Nebraska but acknowledged how hard it can be against such a dominant team.
"Overall I didn't feel like we were playing that badly, but against a team like that, you can't make mistakes," Kreklow said.