On Friday night, Missouri volleyball welcomed fans to the Tigers' temporary home venue.
Fortunately, the new facility is just one door down.
For the first time ever, the Tigers competed inside Mizzou Arena due to recent flooding at the Hearnes Center.
The location change didn’t seem to bother the team.
Missouri (13-4, 3-2 SEC) made quick work of South Carolina (13-2, 4-1 SEC), 25-22, 25-11, 30-28, to snap a two-match losing streak. The sweep marked the Gamecocks' first Southeastern Conference loss this season.
"This one was huge," head coach Wayne Kreklow said. "We knew this one was going to be tough. I mean, they're a good, solid team. I thought we did a really nice job of applying steady pressure from start to finish."
Kreklow said the team made an effort to keep its routine as similar as possible to that of a typical home match, but the atmosphere at Mizzou Arena was certainly different.
"It's just a brighter, louder, newer place," Kreklow said. "The thing that Hearnes has got that (Mizzou Arena) doesn't is everybody's closer to the floor. So here you're a little bit more spread out, but of course you've got the nice, big, lit scoreboard. You can do all the fancy stuff … I think from a fan's experience, obviously it's just the entertainment value — I don't think there's any comparison."
Despite the close proximity of the two facilities, some Missouri players had yet to enter the arena until yesterday. Newcomer Kylie Deberg, who led the Tiger offense in kills against South Carolina, was one of them.
"It was pretty cool," Deberg said. "I just like being down here. I mean, everything's obviously newer than Hearnes, so it's just cool to be here."
Senior Alyssa Munlyn said it felt different playing in Mizzou Arena, but that the fan support was as consistent as usual.
"I thought it was awesome that we still had a crowd," Munlyn said. "It could've very easily felt empty, and it could've very easily felt like this huge space. But I really feel like our fans came and they showed up for us."
Missouri's sweep over the Gamecocks came at a critical time, as a three-match losing streak could have sent the Tigers down a discouraging path.
"We were grinding all week," Munlyn said. "No one likes to lose, but we also know that those were really good teams, and we also know that we're going to see them later this season. So I think for us, it was just getting back to business."
The Tigers got off to a strong start, capturing the first two sets by scores of 25-22 and 25-11. It seemed as though the end was in sight, but South Carolina rallied to make a run in the third set.
Trading off points down the stretch, Missouri kept its composure and came together when it mattered most. The home team escaped with a 30-28 triumph to earn the overall win.
"Staying steady – that was the biggest thing," Munlyn said. "It's really hard in volleyball. It's a momentum game, and if you let a couple points take the momentum to the other side and we get anxious, that takes away from our focus. And I think the whole match that was our whole thing: steady. If they get a point, so what? If they get two, so what? Our job is still the same."
The Tigers are now 11-2 in matches when they have won the first set. Kreklow said that winning the first set is often crucial to the team's success.
"I don't think there’s any substitute for getting off to a good start, especially when you're at home," Kreklow said. "What you want to really make sure that you do when you're home, is if you can get that first one, it just kind of sets the tone right away."
Missouri will look to keep its momentum going at 1:30 p.m. Sunday in its second match against Arkansas this season. In the first meeting between the two teams this season, the Tigers beat the Razorbacks 3-1 on Sept. 23.
Sunday's match will be broadcast live on the SEC Network.
Supervising editor is Theo DeRosa.