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Friday, December 19, 2014

For Molly Kreklow, everlasting inspiration

Behind the glamor and pressure of leading a nationally-recognized and undefeated volleyball team, Kreklow reminds herself that she’s still playing a game for fun — and it only makes her better.

Oct. 17, 2013

Meeting with Molly

This season marks an important one for Missouri volleyball, as its two best recruiting classes in recent history (2010, 2013) collide to make up for last year’s disappointing Southeastern Conference debut. The team’s only seniors, Lisa Henning and Molly Kreklow, lead the pack of Tigers, half of whom are freshmen.

Follow this series each week for each to chronicle the final step of Kreklow’s journey — the one she’s been dreaming of her entire life.

The reason why senior Molly Kreklow is arguably the nation’s best setter lies past the countless dedication on the court.

It lies beyond coming to practices early and staying late, beyond weekly team meetings and frequent Hail Marys — rushing after errant balls in matches with hopes of setting ridiculous angles on the dive.

The reason why Kreklow is the best is nothing outrageous, it’s quite straightforward actually. She’s great, and she’s inspired, because of an ongoing factor of life at home: family game nights.

“When I was younger, with my family, for entertainment we played sports together,” Kreklow said.

So the family bonded over sport.

Kreklow’s parents were both successful athletes, she said, and they instilled values in their children that lasted through the games and after them, in school and in life.

“They taught us from a young age to go after the things we love to do,” Kreklow said. “They always really encouraged us.”

It all comes back to those games, though. The family games.

Then, it would be anything at any time: basketball, backyard baseball and volleyball, paintball, and Ping-Pong pugilisms. Now, it’s more of the same, and tennis and golf and whatever other sport or game Kreklow can gab at first thought.

Her passion for sports as fun, relaxing leisure time has developed into an incorrigible motive, a tight tie between work and play.

“I’m a very competitive person, and I thoroughly enjoy it,” Kreklow said. “It’s not just like, oh when it’s easy or it’s fun or when there’s a crowd. I would come here even when there was nobody and still want to play.”

Where people are watching are at the Hearnes Center, where Kreklow joins a squad of 12 best friends whom she genuinely cares about, livening the game even more, like family away from home.

There may be nearly nobody watching in Kreklow’s future career — after the sky-high prospects of life after college volleyball, of playing for her country — inevitably based on her degree in nutrition, something that’s allowed for her schoolwork and sport to fuse into “one big hobby.” And the fun won’t stop, she said, because she knows she still has space and time to grow.

“I haven’t really reached my ceiling yet, so until I do that, I think that there’s going to be a lot that I’m going to want to learn,” Kreklow said. “That’s what’s going to drive me to keep practicing and to keep working at it.”

Looking toward her future, Kreklow sees the dwindling number of games left on her schedule and she remembers what things were like her freshman year, thinking her career is young with plenty of games to go.

“It seems like a lot of time when you’re in the middle of the season … but it just flies by,” she said. “I’ve had my time, I’ve really enjoyed it, and I hope that I can pass on a little of what I’ve enjoyed to the people younger than I am.”

Kreklow will try to find time for that this weekend when the stakes for volleyball are extremely high. The No.18 Tigers (21-0, 5-0) are hosting a pair of forceful Southeastern Conference rivals in the next few days, a promotion-laden and implications-heavy frenzy.

First, Missouri will battle a solid Georgia team (14-4, 4-2) on Friday before clashing with No. 2 Florida, who swept a team comparable to Missouri in No. 14 Kentucky (13-4, 5-1) last week.

To continue their mythical streak and cement themselves at the top of the SEC, the Tigers are going to have to continue playing like their dynamic selves of late, with a hint of perfection and magic. But even if they lose, Kreklow said, the Tigers are more than able to recover.

After all, it’s still just a game.

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