For the second straight season, Missouri volleyball will travel to Lincoln, Nebraska, for the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers will face Northern Iowa in the first round and, if they win, the winner of Nebraska/Ball State in the second round.
It is the Tigers’ fifth straight NCAA Tournament appearance and 16th all-time. Five consecutive NCAA Tournament bids ranks as the second-longest streak in program history, trailing only eight-straight appearances from 2000-2007.
“It’s an awesome feeling and it has become an expectation at the University of Missouri,” coach Joshua Taylor said. “It’s a big deal. There are over 320 Division I women’s programs and to be one of the 64 Division I women’s programs to make it is huge.”
In 2018, No. 7 Nebraska hosted and defeated Missouri in straight sets in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. It was the Cornhuskers’ 72nd victory against the Tigers in 76 matches.
“I think you can be frustrated about where you are going or who you are playing; but in reality, with the top 64 teams in the country, you will never get an easy match,” Taylor said.
However, the 2019 Missouri team has a chance to rewrite history as it has been one of the best offensive teams in the country. The Tigers average more aces, assists and kills per set, and boast a higher hitting percentage than Nebraska.
The Tigers’ potential tournament run will begin in the first round against Northern Iowa, though. The two teams met back on Sept. 13 at the Mizzou Invitational, which resulted in a four-set victory for the Tigers. Missouri held the Panthers to just .111 hitting as Northern Iowa committed 40 total errors.
Missouri hit a respectable .263 and was much cleaner in its performance, totaling 16 less errors. The Tigers were able to use their height advantage as they out-blocked Northern Iowa 12 to five.
Northern Iowa finished the season 24-10 overall and 17-1 in conference play. The Panthers dropped the Missouri Valley Conference championship match against Illinois State on Saturday in straight sets.
“I think they are a very good volleyball team,” Taylor said. “We have played them a couple times and they are well coached and have some great athletes. We know we are going to have to play our best volleyball to come out successful in that first round.”
Missouri finished the regular season 21-7 with a 13-5 conference record. The Tigers finished tied for third in the SEC as they extended their program record of five-straight 20-plus win seasons. Missouri finished the season with six top 50 RPI victories, including one over No. 13 Texas A&M.
“I’m hoping the girls will have a high belief in each other and come out ready to go with guns blazing when we get into that first match,” Taylor said.
Missouri and Northern Iowa will begin at 4:30 p.m. Friday. If the Tigers prevail, their second-round match will begin at 7 p.m. Saturday against the winner of Nebraska and Ball State.
“With the type of volleyball Nebraska is playing right now, we know we win that first-round match, we will be facing them in the second,” Taylor said.
If a Missouri-Nebraska matchup does come to fruition, the Tigers will try to improve on a 1-43 record against the Cornhuskers since 1982.