Undefeated Mizzou volleyball team has SEC title within reach

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.