Missouri volleyball bucked from NCAA Tournament

Max Baker

For everything that worked for Missouri volleyball (16-8) in its first-round matchup against South Dakota on Wednesday, Ohio State (16-3) had an answer.

The Buckeyes, who were making their first tournament appearance since 2016, comfortably won all three sets, and the Tigers’ season ended in the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive time.

“We did everything we could to the best of our ability,” Missouri coach Joshua Taylor said in a release. “I think that’s what sports is – you do the best you can and either it’s good enough or not. Today wasn’t our day, but I wouldn’t change anything.”

Just two years removed from a 3-17 record in Big Ten conference play, the Buckeyes will now face the winner Florida in the Sweet 16.

Early on, Missouri’s offense was in rhythm, as All-SEC setter Andrea Fuentes assisted on the team’s first four points. She had a team-high 26 assists to bring her career total to 3,088, and is the seventh Missouri player to surpass the 3,000 career assist mark. Missouri took a quick 4-2 first-set lead when senior outside hitter Kylie Deberg’s crosscourt kill dropped in front of Ohio State’s Kylie Murr.

The Buckeyes evaporated that lead with a 5-0 run and they never trailed in the match again. Missouri did not record any blocks in the first set, dropping the frame 25-17.

Each time Missouri seemed to grab some momentum, service errors and Ohio State’s dominant presence at the net halted any chance of a comeback. Deberg led the Tigers with a match-high 17 kills, but the team recorded 36 in total, 11 fewer than in their first-round matchup. She passed the 500-point mark for a third straight year.

Rylee Rader, ranked 15th nationally in hitting percentage, helped orchestrate the Buckeyes with 10 kills and a team-high .474 hitting percentage and .526 kill percentage. As a team, they recorded a .295 attacking percentage and out-blocked Missouri 9-4.

In the second set, Missouri rallied from seven points down to cut the Ohio State lead to 14-12. After an Emily Brown serve bounced off the front of the net, one of Missouri’s eight service errors, Ohio State went on a 7-0 run and later won the set 25-20.

After trailing 13-8 in the final set, Missouri cut Ohio State’s lead down to two points on six occasions, but never got any closer, falling 25-21.

With the loss, Deberg ended her senior season as Missouri’s career leader in kills per set (4.31) and points per set (5.11). She also set a single-season Missouri record in kills per set (4.76).