Volleyball replacing an ‘anchor’ with Keala

“There are big shoes to fill and that’s not something that will happen overnight, but it’s evolving as we go,” coach Wayne Kreklow said.
Missouri Tigers setter Loxley Keala takes a breath between points during a game against Georgia, Oct. 18, 2013 at the Hearnes Center. Maneater File Photo

Missouri coach Wayne Kreklow compared his former setter to a naval instrument.

Kreklow said that for four years, Molly Kreklow served as an “anchor” at setter for the Missouri volleyball team.

Following her graduation, that anchor has been lifted. The Tigers are attempting to replace the solid foundation that kept the team grounded, and sophomore Loxley Keala is hoping to fill Molly Kreklow’s shoes at setter.

Keala, who served as a defensive specialist her freshman season, played in all 36 matches, pulling 214 digs and tallying 26 points for Mizzou. Despite her successes, Keala does not think she is immune to the difficulties that come with making a position change.

“There are just more things to think about when you’re setting because you’re on the court the entire time,” Keala said. “You have to worry about the other five people that are on the court with you.”

Kaela was recruited out of high school as a setter, and she waited in the wings for her chance set for the Tigers. But the transition from high school ball to college is a big one — one that her teammates say she is hard at work preparing for.

“There are so many things that I was not aware of in high school that I need to think about now,” she said. “It’s about watching the block on the other side or just paying attention to certain rotations. There’s just a lot more thinking involved.”

Kreklow compares his setters to quarterbacks in football, navigating the offense and everyone’s position on the court.

As “quarterback,” Keala will have to be aware of everything happening on both sides of the net, whether that be an opponent blocker coming towards the middle, or recognizing a weaker defensive player and setting the ball in order to expose that, all without losing a split second.

“The mental game is so important at the college level. You have no time to think and everything has to be instinctive,” Keala said.

Keala’s attitude will also set the tone for a Tigers team still searching for a true identity early in the season. The sophomore’s style is very different than Molly Kreklow’s, both in how she interacts with her teammates during and between points.

“It’s going to take some getting used to, not just for me, but also for my teammates,” Keala said. “Because I am different than Molly and we do have different styles.”

Keala’s position is not entirely set in stone. Early on, Keala has shared time with freshman setter Ali Kreklow, playing a 6-2 offensive system, which allows both Keala and Ali Kreklow opportunities to set. The competition is fierce but friendly in practice and matches, as both have made their own claims to whether they should be permanently split time or have a solid starting job.

“Loxley and Ali are two totally different setters and there’s adjusting for all of us,” senior Whitney Little said.

Due to injuries, it is also possible that Keala will spend time as an outside hitter.

Her athleticism and competitive drive have led coach Wayne Kreklow to experiment using her at various positions around the court.

“Right now she’s actually hitting for us, so Lox is one of our best all-around players,” Wayne Kreklow said. “We’re trying to figure out a way to utilize everything.”

Wayne Kreklow emphasized the process of solidifying the lineup, but said there is no set timetable to replace the All-American Molly Kreklow.

“We have a long way to go,” he said. “There are big shoes to fill and that’s not something that will happen overnight, but it’s evolving as we go.”

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