Crowd Helps Carry Missouri Past Arkansas

COLUMBIA, MO. -- Host Missouri capitalized on an active crowd of 2,437 in the Hearnes Center to hold off Arkansas 30-28, 30-21, 25-30, 30-26 in a spirited first-round match of the NCAA Volleyball Tournament on Friday night.

Shen Danru, a 5-foot-11 outside hitter from Shanghai, China, had 21 kills to pace No. 24 Missouri (20-8), the 16th-seeded team in the 64-team field.

Kele Brewer led Arkansas (17-16) with 17 kills and sparked a third-game rally which carried over to an 8-4 lead in Game 4, before the Tigers went on an 8-1 run to seize back the momentum.

"It was a good college match and a great atmosphere," said Arkansas coach Chris Poole. "I was proud of the way we battled back in the third and fourth games. I thought the home crowd was a big key in Games 1 and 4."

Missouri coach Susan Kreklow, who has taken the Tigers to their only five NCAA appearances in her five years at the school, agreed with Poole about the boisterous crowd.

"The crowd in volleyball is very important," she said. "They certainly helped generate the energy we needed tonight."

Arkansas didn't grab its first lead until 12-11 in Game 1, but then took a three-point lead on five occasions -- the last time at 25-22.

Missouri tied the score 25-25 on a controversial lift call against Arkansas, then went on to win 30-28 when UA senior Jennifer Haaser's attack sailed long on game point.

The Tigers controlled Game 2, leading by as much as 21-11, but Arkansas rallied from a 17-14 deficit to win Game 3, as freshman libero Ashley Miller served eight straight points as the Lady'Backs went up 22-17.

Karla Crose had a sharply angled kill on game point for the Lady Razorbacks.

"Arkansas is a very good blocking team," said Mizzou setter Lindsey Hunter. "I think we got a little intimidated after Game 3, but our crowd stayed upbeat the whole time."

Danru borrowed some football terminology, saying, "We kind of bent but we didn't break."

Jessica Vander Kooi, who had 13 kills for Missouri, credited her team's "hustle plays" with overcoming Arkansas' 14-12 blocking advantage.

Miller had 24 digs for Arkansas, including one with her head.

The Tigers now face the nation's second-best blocking team, No. 19 Louisville (29-2), at 6 p.m. tonight. Louisville, a very physical bunch, advanced with a 30-27, 21-30, 30-19, 30-23 win over Illinois, which delayed the start of the Arkansas-Missouri game by 30 minutes.

"Tonight was not our best performance, but we battled well," Kreklow said. "We wanted to serve aggressively, pass well and keep our offense quick against Arkansas, but we had some service errors in the first game."

Hunter's service error gave Arkansas a 26-25 lead in that game, but after Denny Koleva put the Lady'Backs up 28-27 with a kill, Missouri tied it 28-28 on a close line call.

"There are a lot of judgment calls in volleyball, and a couple of them didn't go our way in that game," Poole said.

Koleva and Haaser had 10 kills each for Arkansas, which hit .185 to Missouri's .231.

"It hasn't sunk in yet that my career is over," Haaser said. "Tonight we just made a few key mistakes on our side of the net."

Poole said Arkansas would miss Haaser of Fort Smith, the team's first in-state player.

"Jennifer has meant a lot to us," Poole said. "I was real proud of the way she and the team battled. We don't have to hang our heads."

Brewer, a sophomore from Castroville, Texas, said, "I love to compete. I think we thrive off competition. The closer it got in Game 4, the better we pulled together."

Arkansas came back from an 18-13 hole to get within 26-25 before Haaser made a service error and Brewer missed a kill.

Brewer staved off elimination with a kill at 29-25, but then missed a block attempt on game point.

"In the NCAA Tournament, everyone is good," Poole said. "Tonight was a learning process, like this whole season."

Poole said Missouri, the third-place team in the Big 12, was comparable to top Southeastern Conference teams Tennessee (No. 10) and Florida (No. 13).

"This Louisville Regional is the toughest one, according to average RPI," Poole said.

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