Nov. 23, 2013
By MUTigers.com Staff Writer Andrew Melroe
COLUMBIA, Mo.- There weren't a lot of people that thought that a team that went 19-12 and 10-10 in SEC play a year ago would win the league the next year. In fact, when senior setter Molly Kreklow told her team in August that they would win an SEC Championship this season, it would not have been surprising if even some of her own teammates doubted her. But after Friday night, no one is doubting Kreklow and the Tigers, who claimed the school's first ever SEC Championship and the program's first-ever conference title. It was Kreklow's never-wavering belief in her team that led the Tigers to what happened at the Hearnes Center Friday night.
"We have a lot of determination and a lot of hard work," Kreklow said. "I wouldn't say we are the most talented team from top to bottom, but I think we work really well together and never give up. That is one thing in volleyball that is huge. I think we have shown that all year and will continue to show that in the postseason."
Coach Wayne Kreklow believed this team was talented from the start of the season. But in a league that has been dominated for the last two decades by the Florida Gators, a conference title wasn't something that crossed the Tiger coach's mind until just recently.
"After we beat Florida for the second time at their place is when I knew we could win the conference," he said. "That was the key win and we controlled our own destiny after that win. We have had some great wins against good teams this season."
Despite having two regular season matches remaining and his 11th NCAA Tournament appearance in 14 years, it is hard for Kreklow to not reflect on how memorable this season has been. Conference championships don't happen all the time - in fact Mizzou had just three regular season conference titles since 1996 before Mizzou's win Friday - and Kreklow realizes that it takes a complete buy-in from a team to accomplish a goal like what happened Friday night.
"I'm really happy for the kids, they have done an outstanding job all season long," Kreklow said. "I couldn't think of a group that deserves it more. They have worked so hard for so long. To be able to do this in the SEC is just a phenomenal accomplishment."
Records are bound to break when a team goes 32-0. The record broken Friday did not come on the court though; it was in the crowd. 7,879 loud, screaming Tiger fans packed the Hearnes Center to witness the first SEC championship win in Missouri sports history. The crowd was the largest in Mizzou Volleyball history, topping the 7,298 who saw Nebraska face the Tigers in 2005. Coach Kreklow was appreciative of the fans on the podium during the trophy presentation, claiming to have the "best fans in the SEC." Later he went into more detail of how important those fans are to the Tigers' success.
"It was just absolutely incredible," he said. "At the beginning of the match, we just kept watching and people just kept coming in. It slowly started filling up higher and higher. It's really a wonderful thing for our kids to play in an environment like that."
Molly Kreklow was thankful for the fan support as well, "It was a great atmosphere here tonight. We had so many great fans. I can't be more thankful for what so many people have done for our program, and it was really special to get this win in front of our fans."
She hopes that her team's win will translate into other sport programs following their lead.
"It's really great what happened here tonight, and we are going to support the other teams going forward. We have a lot of really talented sports teams here and I think so many sports have great opportunities to win the SEC in the future. We are going to be there to support them all the way because this is just a great feeling."
Missouri has two more regular season games on the road against Kentucky on Sunday and at home against Arkansas on Wednesday before starting the NCAA Tournament.