Wednesday was a big day for the Missouri volleyball team. Not only did the Tigers dominate Oklahoma in straight sets at the Hearnes Center to bolster their NCAA Tournament resume (25-22, 25-20, 18-25), but the program also landed two top-50 recruits in Molly Kreklow and Lisa Henning.
Missouri (15-11, 6-8 Big 12) came into the match looking to prove themselves in the homestretch of the season against a tough opponent in Oklahoma (17-7, 10-5 Big 12), winners of four straight games.
Kreklow stressed the importance of the days leading up to the match after losing two straight against ranked opponents.
"They did a really good job of what they've been working on, carrying over from Monday and Tuesday in practice," Kreklow said.
Senior setter Lei Wang-Francisco recorded 45 assists and also noticed the importance of the preparation early in the week.
"This game is really important for us and how we practice in how we play," Wang-Francisco said.
The attack was a collective effort as five Tigers contributed at least eight points. Junior outside hitter Paola Ampudia led the way with 21 kills on 53 attacks. Fellow junior outside hitters Julianna Klein and Catie Wilson each contributed eight points.
Middle blockers junior Weiwen Wang and sophomore Brittney Brimmage also stepped up in a way not seen before this season. Wang showed her strengths early and often, chipping in eight kills. Brimmage produced when needed, hitting .500 and contributing 8.5 points.
The Tigers came out swinging in the first set to counter one of the best defensive teams in the nation. The first frame was back and forth with the teams combining for just three streaks of three points.
Although the first set was nothing but back and forth, the second was a set of streaks with the Tigers jumping out to a an 11-4 lead early. Missouri stopped the Oklahoma attack in its tracks, as most of the swings from the Sooner front line were set far from the net. Oklahoma battled their way back, though with three streaks of three points.
With the score 20-18, Ampudia took over and finished off the set with four of the final five points. Missouri got off to a clean start in the final set and never relinquished the lead. Six players posted kills and were partly helped by two net violations on the Sooners.
With this big win under their belt, the Tigers are looking to have created a resume worthy of the NCAA Tournament.
"I think it says we're a little underrated and people are overlooking us and we can do big things," Wilson said. "Winning in three was really good and it proved a point to everyone in the Big 12."
Wang-Francisco was more hesitant on what the win meant for the team.
"It means a lot to us, however, we need more wins and that will help us get into the tournament," Wang-Francisco said.
Oklahoma has made a name for itself this season as one of the best defensive teams in the nation, ranking sixth with 17.67 digs per set.
"Oklahoma is normally a really safe team," Kreklow said. "I felt like they beat a lot of people because they don't beat themselves a lot."
The Tigers have just five games left, two against ranked opponents.
"When you get to the last three weeks of the season, this is when a lot of things pop," Kreklow said.