In MU volleyball’s first year in the Southeastern Conference, junior setter Molly Kreklow said she thinks the team’s strength lies in its offense.
“Attacking is definitely our strength,” Kreklow said. “When we have the ball we can usually put it down. Our challenge in stopping teams is going to be blocking and digging. But as far as offense we have a lot of good hitters and a lot of strong, strong attackers.”
One of those attackers will be sophomore outside hitter Taylor Simpson. In 2010, PrepVolleyball.com ranked Simpson ninth in the nation as a recruit. Many of the top schools in the nation, including MU, sought her athletic talent, and after much deliberation she chose the University of Nebraska. As a Husker, Simpson played 34 sets with 13 kills and nine blocks.
A year later, she decided to transfer to Florida State University. After only one week, she left and transferred to MU.
“First I decided that Nebraska just wasn’t for me," she said. "Then I went to Florida State and there were some personal problems that were going on, so I decided that I was going to reevaluate again. I picked Mizzou, and I’m thrilled to be here.”
Simpson can immediately start playing this season, according to NCAA rules. Coach Wayne Kreklow said he has already seen what she brings to the table.
“She adds an immediate athletic presence and experience that is really helpful right now,” Wayne Kreklow said.
A student making multiple transfers before finding the right school is not uncommon, Wayne Kreklow said.
“What happens so often is kids will take a roundabout way to end up where they are,” he said. “Then when kids decided after they go one place that it doesn’t work out and they want to go in a different direction, usually they look back at the schools that were in the top at the beginning. We were one of those and she made a series of visits and, fortunately for us, she decided to come here.”
The coach said he hopes signing Simpson can start a trend of attracting top ranked recruits in the future.
“I hope so, but you never really know how that goes,” he said. “Any time we can add someone like a Taylor Simpson, I think that certainly helps in trying to sell to the next generation of players coming in that they’ll be able to play with some top-tier players. Particularly in the sport of volleyball, more so than any other sport, is that one player’s performance is so dependent on the people around them.”
Molly Kreklow said she thinks Simpson will mesh well with the rest of the team.
“Since she’s one of eight of us living together, it’s been easy because she’s around us every day,” she said. “It’s been pretty seamless because she fits so well into our group. I hope she likes it so far and we’ve all really love having her.”
On Friday, Simpson took part in her first Black & Gold scrimmage, an annual event at the Hearnes Center. She had 12 kills and five digs during the session.
Wayne Kreklow was pleased with her early season performance.
“I think she did really well,” he said. “She’s got good size and good athleticism. I think she’s only going to get better the more she plays and the more comfortable she gets with more teammates, particularly with Molly.”
Simpson will be one of eight sophomores on this year’s team. Though the team might appear young, many of the players have played every set of their career.
“It’s a little bit deceiving,” Wayne Kreklow said. “We are young on paper, but a lot of those young players have a lot of experience under their belt. A lot of our sophomores played every game last year, so I think we’re actually a little more experienced in terms of playing time.”
MU begins its regular season Friday when it will host North Florida, Virginia Tech, Nicholls State and Michigan in the Tiger Invitational at the Hearnes Center.