Undefeated Mizzou volleyball team has SEC title within reach

Nate Latsch looks at the No. 4-ranked volleyball team, No. 8 football team and hoops recruiting


People probably didn't believe Molly Kreklow when she said it.

 

Her teammates may have even looked at her funny. Say what?

 

But at a Missouri women's volleyball team meeting over the summer, Kreklow told her Tigers teammates that they were going to be Southeastern Conference champions this season.

 

"I remember when I said that," says Kreklow, Mizzou's senior setter and, apparently, fortune teller. "I remember people kind of looked at me like, 'What? Like, really?' I said, yeah, we're going to be SEC champions. I think we can do that. We were laughing about that on the plane (Sunday). When I said that I knew what I was talking about, and now it's definitely in our reach right now."

 

It certainly is.

 

After going on the road and sweeping Florida on Friday and then South Carolina on Sunday, the fourth-ranked Tigers are now a remarkable 31-0 overall and 15-0 in SEC play going into a home match Friday against Mississippi State at Hearnes Center.

 

"We haven't really talked a lot about numbers, which is a good thing," says coach Wayne Kreklow, who is Molly's uncle. "But I'm really happy. I couldn't be happier for the kids because they've worked hard. Especially the returners. They've really invested so much during the off-season, last spring and during the summer. To see that kind of effort and commitment and hard work reap such great dividends, it's really nice to see because they've worked so hard."

 

The dynamic duo of Molly Kreklow and outside hitter Lisa Henning has led the way.

 

Kreklow and Henning are Mizzou's only seniors and are both four-year starters. Both earned All-SEC recognition a year ago -- Henning was a first-team pick while Kreklow was a second-team selection -- and both were key contributors on the Tigers' NCAA Tournament teams in 2010 and 2011.

 

When Mizzou went 19-12 a year ago, including a 10-10 mark in the SEC, the Tigers fell short of the NCAA Tournament after earning invitations the two previous years.

 

That left them feeling like they had something to prove, which became the squad's motto going into this season. Actually, "Something To Prove" became a movement and a rallying cry. The team has a sign at Hearnes Center with those three words and the team has adopted the abbreviation as its own nifty little Twitter hash tag: #STP.

 

As you might expect, Kreklow and Henning were behind the slogan.

 

"I can't overstate the importance of what those two have done," their coach says. "I think they have really kind of set the tone. I think last season's finish was tough for them because we came really close and didn't make it. Honestly, I think they were really bitter. I think they were really upset. I think they literally just vowed that this is not going to happen to us again and really committed themselves.


"In addition to those two, I think also what has been equally important is the buy-in from the rest of the group, all of our juniors, our sophomores. All of those kids really bought in and they all really, I think, have taken turns pushing each other and challenging each other. I'm just really happy it's paying off for them."

 

With one more conference victory, the Tigers will clinch the SEC championship. What had seemed unlikely just a few months ago is now within their grasp.

 

Molly Kreklow believed it. And now nobody is questioning it.

 

TIGERS MOVE UP IN FOOTBALL RANKINGS

 

The Mizzou football team was off Saturday but still got a bump in the national rankings, thanks to USC's win over Stanford.

 

The Tigers moved up one spot, to No. 8, in the BCS Standings as well as the Associated Press Top 25. Mizzou stayed at No. 8 in the USA Today Coaches Poll and the Harris Poll.

 

The Tigers' weekend could have gone better, though.

 

Auburn pulled off an improbable win over Georgia on a desperation fourth-down pass with 25 seconds remaining and South Carolina rallied in the second half for a win over Florida.  

 

That means Missouri needs to win its final two games -- on Saturday at Ole Miss (7-3) and then the following week against Texas A&M (8-2) at Memorial Stadium -- to capture the SEC East Division title and earn a berth in the SEC championship game.

 

That won't be easy, but at least the Tigers control their own destiny.

 

HOOPS SIGNING CLASS RANKED IN TOP 25

 

Coach Frank Haith signed two Top 100 prospects last week in Georgia forward Jakeenan Gant and California swingman Namon Wright. That two-man recruiting class was ranked the 24th–best in the country and third-best in the Southeastern Conference, according to Scout.com.

 

"This was a very good class for us and fits two needs in our program," Haith said in a press release. "We needed some additional size and athleticism in the paint, and Jakeenan is one of the country's more athletic hybrid forwards. He can run the court, finish in transition, and he has the chance to be a big-time presence on the defensive end.


"Namon gives us very good size on the perimeter and he has an attacking mentality on the offensive end. He will keep developing as a shooter, but right now he puts a lot of pressure on his opponents because of his ability to score off the bounce."

 

Gant is an athletic 6-foot-8, 215-pounder who averaged 17.9 points, 9.3 rebounds and almost 4 blocked shots per game last season at Effingham County High School in Springfield, Ga.

 

"Jakeenan can be a difference-making scorer and defender both on the wing and in the paint," Haith said.

 

Wright is a 6-4, 175-pounder who averaged 15.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game a year ago at Pacific Hills High School in Los Angeles.  

 

"Namon just has a great feel for the game and similar to Wes Clark, he is always on the attack, looking for a way to beat you," Haith said. "He is a bigger guard, which we like, and has great length that allows him to excel defensively. He has very good instincts and is very good at slashing and attacking the rim."

 

TWEET OF THE WEEK

 

From Tigers redshirt senior linebacker Donovan Bonner:


You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter (@natelatsch) or email him at natelatsch@gmail.com.