Missouri swept Mississippi State in just under 90 minutes Friday night — it was fast, just like the Tigers’ ascension to their first Southeastern Conference championship.
It was a historic night for the No. 4 Missouri volleyball team. The Tigers improved to 32-0 overall and 16-0 in SEC play. Not to mention winning the school’s first SEC title in any sport before 7,879 at the Hearnes Center, a MU volleyball attendance record.
After the match, MU coach Wayne Kreklow credited his two seniors, Lisa Henning and Molly Kreklow.
“They were the keys,” he said. “They were the driving force behind this from a year ago at this time. They are really the undisputed leaders of the group. They kind of set the tone. What they did a really super job of is they didn’t just talk a good game, but they actually walked it, too.
“They were the first ones at the work out, the last ones to leave. When you have leaders like that, it makes it really easy for the rest to follow. That’s for sure.”
Henning led Missouri with 11 kills. Second behind her was freshman Carly Kan with nine kills, and illustrated how the Tigers are undefeated by way of perfecting an internal game of follow the leader.
After Missouri took all three sets, 25-19, 25-16 and 25-17, confetti fell on them all as SEC associate commissioner Tiffany Daniels presented the Tigers with their trophy.
“There’s a lot of luck that goes into it,” Wayne Kreklow said. “That’s why it’s so special when it happens because it’s so hard. So many things have to fall into place.”
It’s fitting that the MU volleyball team, which claimed Missouri’s first SEC victory in any sport against Tennessee last season, is the first MU team to win an SEC championship.
It’s even more fitting that Henning provided the clinching kill with the help of her co-captain, best friend and fellow senior.
“Me and Molly have always been here together,” Henning said. “I’ve been here four years with her, and she’s always been my setter. I’ve never had anyone else. Just to kind of wind our senior season down, it was awesome. It’s just me and her.
“We’re the only seniors. Sharing it together, we live together, we’re best friends. We do everything together. So, having this experience and being able to win that last point, just me and her, was awesome.”
The stadium eventually emptied, but the confetti remained on the court. The smiles remained on players’ and their families’ faces. Henning and Kreklow danced around holding signs that read, “SEC: Something to Prove.” The Tigers proved something to their coach.
“I think that, more than anything, they proved that they could do it over the long haul,” Kreklow said. “And I think that’s really challenging for teams. You see a lot of teams that in bits and spurts can achieve at a high level, but for them to — you can say what you want about the schedule, the timing, the whole bit—but any time you do that 32 [times] without a loss, I mean that’s just really something special.
“And that just, to me, highlights a very resilient, focused group of kids that really just aren’t going to be denied.”
Player by player filed out of the tunnel carrying a suitcase. Confetti remained on the court. Smiles remained on both their and their family’s faces. At least until Missouri leaves in the morning for Kentucky to take on the Wildcats on Sunday.