Nothing to Prove, MU Volleyball Ends Season Undefeated
After four years with the program Lisa Henning and Molly Kreklow made history on senior night. The MU volleyball team won its 34th consecutive match and end the regular season undefeated after beating Arkansas in three straight sets (25-11, 25-16, 29-27) on Wednesday.
After starting the season outside the top-25 the Tigers are No. 4 in the nation and look to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament next month. No SEC team has won an NCAA volleyball title even though the Florida Gators have made the Final Four seven times. But no matter the outcome next month this team has already had one of the most memorable seasons in the program's history.
The Tigers ended last season with two straight losses at the Hearnes Center against Kentucky and Alabama. Both of those losses also ended the team's hope of making of the NCAA tournament.
The Tigers finished 19-12 overall and 10-10 in the SEC conference.
Over the offseason three players left the team but the core players remained and a top 25 recruiting class, that included freshmen standouts Carly Kan and Emily Thater, came in to fill the gaps.
Kan came to Missouri from Hawaii after helping lead her high school team to a national top 10 ranking. Even though she's listed at 5'9, Kan proved she could reach above the net with the best in the nation and was ready to improve MU's offense.
Thater didn't have to travel as far but came to Columbia with high expectations. The Kickapoo High School graduate was named one of the top 50 recruits nationally by recruiting services, and standing at 6'3 she was expected to contribute immediately.
After eight months of practice and patience the team gathered on the court with renewed focus and more talent, but seniors Molly Kreklow and Lisa Henning didn't want the team to forget the disappointment of last season. During the summer the two made up the motto, "Something to Prove." The phrase can be seen on posters, bracelets, and even on Twitter as the hashtag #STP. In hindsight it was also a sign to fans that they were in for special season.
The Road to Perfection
The Tigers started the season with a loss, but it was against each other in the Black and Gold scrimmage. It was the first time the public got to see the team play together and it would be the last time any of the players would lose over the next three months.
The MU volleyball team breezed through four early season tournaments and lost only two sets in 15 matches. But they still remained outside the top 25 nationally and would have more to prove against conference opponents if they wanted to make the NCAA tournament.
The Tigers swept South Carolina in their first SEC game and traveled to Arkansas, beating the Razorbacks three sets to one in Fayetteville. After beating Auburn two days later the team received national recognition and were ranked 25th in the nation.
A win against Tennessee a week later broke the schools record for most consecutive wins when the team improved to 20-0. But their toughest opponent, the then No. 2 Florida Gators, was still ahead of them.
It was seen as the biggest game of the season for the Tigers and they left strong statement by beating the Gators three sets to one at the Hearnes Center on Oct. 20. After beating the No. 2 in the country for their 23rd straight win an undefeated season looked more probable than it had all year.
The Tigers brushed through their next eight matches, which included a four game road trip where they swept Florida in Gainesville, got revenge against Kentucky at the Hearnes Center, and beat Alabama for the second time in Tuscaloosa.
Ranked No. 4 and with a national best record of 32-0 the MU volleyball team claimed the SEC title after beating Mississippi State at the Hearnes Center in front of 7,879 fans, an all-time high attendance for MU volleyball.
Last year around this time the team was clawing for a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Now the Tigers stand undefeated (34-0, 18-0 SEC) and proved their ready to play against the nation's best teams in December.
Numbers Don't Lie
The MU volleyball team is the first SEC team to go undefeated in the regular season.
The senior class has accounted for 96 wins over four seasons making it the best four-year span in program history.
34 win are the most for a Kreklow-led team at MU and the most since the 1978 team won 37 matches.
Senior Molly Kreklow is the second Tiger to ever break the 5,000-assist mark in a career.
Lisa Henning holds the school's career kills record with 1,767 kills.
Junior Whitney Little broke the single season solo blocks record at MU this season. Little is also the second Tiger to post three straight 100-block seasons.
Over 50,000 fans attended volleyball matches throughout the season.