Missouri capped off a perfect opening weekend with a win over Maryland (3-0) Friday and wins over Nevada (3-0) and Utah Valley (3-0) Saturday despite the imperfect health of freshman setter Molly Kreklow.
Kreklow was forced to play her first three career matches with a broken pinkie finger on her right hand, rendering that hand nearly useless. She couldn’t block, she couldn’t serve overhand, she couldn’t play full-capacity defense, and yet, Kreklow won the Tiger Invitational MVP.
Her much-hyped setting skills were not seriously affected by her injury, as Kreklow racked up 109 assists on the weekend. And that number is impressive given that her injury probably should have affected her play.
“[She was] out there basically playing one-handed, which is really tough,” said coach Wayne Kreklow, who is Molly’s uncle. “That causes a lot of issues in a lot of different situations.”
One of those difficult situations came on Molly Kreklow’s serves, which she had to perform underhand. While Julianna Klein and Paola Ampudia were blasting overhand serves, Kreklow had to resort to a technique usually reserved for high school gym class.
“They were laughing,” Kreklow said of her teammates’ reaction to her serves. “They were like ‘you’re probably the only Division I player to ever serve underhand in the history of volleyball.”
Even if that’s not true, Kreklow’s serves were a reminder that she still isn’t at 100 percent. However, despite not being fully healthy, Kreklow played the weekend with a high level of confidence.
“I felt confident,” she said. “When it comes down to it, you have to. If you’re not confident, you’re not going to play well.”
There was a moment in Friday’s sweep of Maryland that perfectly exhibited Kreklow’s confidence. Instead of setting one of her teammates, Kreklow dumped the ball over the net, catching Maryland off guard for a kill. As the ball bounced on Maryland’s side of the court, Kreklow gave a sly look back to her team’s bench, almost as if to say “yeah, I just did that.”
That swagger is something not always seen in a college freshman in any sport, let alone one playing one of volleyball’s most demanding positions while injured.
“I think she does it in a very good way,” said coach Kreklow of how his setter exhibits that confidence. “It’s not over the top, it’s not obnoxious. She’s a very intense competitor. She likes to win and she likes to do well.”
Although coach Kreklow still sees room for improvement as the setter Kreklow grows more confident.
“I think once she relaxes a bit and plays with just a bit more confidence she’s going to be really good,” he said following Friday’s match.
That has to be a scary thought for teams around the Big 12. Not only could Kreklow play with more confidence, but—to beat this drum one more time—she’s not even healthy yet.
And while Missouri’s competition this weekend may not have been stout—only Utah Valley of the Great West Conference finished 2009 with an above-.500 record—Kreklow got the season off to a fantastic start.
Even if it only took one hand.
For more thoughts on this weekend’s volleyball action and other notes from around MU athletics, check out Darren Hellwege’s blog for KBIA Sports Extra.