It’s easy to assume that senior setter Molly Kreklow’s path to Missouri was a straight line.
Kreklow’s uncle, Wayne, is the Tigers’ head coach and her aunt, Susan, is the director of volleyball.
So, Missouri had to be her first and only choice, right?
“Actually, I was really set on going to Illinois,” Molly said. “That was the first school I really wanted to go to and, when I moved on from that, I was planning to go to Pepperdine. Missouri didn’t really come into the picture until probably my junior year.”
Wayne Kreklow said that was by design. He didn’t want Molly to feel guilty if Missouri wasn’t the right fit.
“We purposely didn’t pursue (Molly) really hard,” Wayne said. “I wanted to make sure that, if she wanted to do this, that it’s what she wanted and she would have made the decision whether or not I’m the uncle.”
Ironically, it’s that patience that paid off — quite handsomely, as it turns out, for both Molly and the Tigers.
Missouri, 31-0, is one of two unbeaten teams in the nation along with Colorado State. The Tigers, whose No. 4 ranking is the highest in program history, need to win one of their final three SEC matches, beginning with Mississippi State at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Hearnes Center, to clinch a Southeastern Conference title — a first for any Missouri program.
Molly is a big reason for that unparalleled success. She ranks second in the nation in assists per set (12.56) and pilots an attack that boasts the nation’s best-hitting percentage (.362).
“Molly is such a huge help,” senior outside hitter Lisa Henning said. “She gets me one-on-ones so many times. My job is really kind of easy compared to what other hitters have to go through.”
Of course, it’s possible none of this would have happened had the Fighting Illini been a little more patient in recruiting Molly.
“I wanted to make my choice on my own time and when I was ready for it,” Molly said. “Illinois offered me a scholarship and I was not quite ready to make that decision. They pressured me a little bit, and I felt like as a player I was going to play for a coach that was going to want me no matter what and let it be on my terms. When they put some pressure on me and said, ‘We need you to commit. Otherwise we’re going to get somebody else.’ I said, ‘OK, that’s fine. I don’t want to go there anymore.’”
Obviously, Illinois’ loss was Missouri’s gain, but as fantastic as the Tigers’ season already has been, Molly hopes it’s only getting started in some ways.
“We were talking last week about what the title of the next chapter would be, and this is kind of my ‘Unexpected Fairytale,’ to be honest,” Molly said. “I never thought this would be happening and I never really expected to happen, but here it is and it couldn’t be more perfect.
“We can still take it a lot farther and probably farther than people even think that we can. We don’t even really know yet, because we have a lot more growth. I don’t know if every team can say that, but every single day I think we get a little better. When you do that, the sky’s the limit.”