COLUMBIA — Despite leading the nation in multiple statistics, individually and collectively, the Missouri volleyball team held practice at the normal time and place on Thursday.
The Hearnes Center, which on game days is packed with loud fans wearing black and gold and holding giant cardboard cutouts of players' faces, was relatively quiet at 2 p.m. Senior setter Molly Kreklow was the first player on the court, warming up with help from assistant coach Lindsey Hunter. Her team's early success, as well as her own, however, was the last thing on her mind.
What: Mizzou Classic
When: Noon and 6:30 p.m. Friday; 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Hearnes Center
Heading into this weekend's Mizzou Classic, the Tigers (11-0) currently possess the nation's best record. They are the only undefeated team in the Southeastern Conference and one of only 12 in the country. Junior Whitney Little currently leads the nation in hitting percentage and Kreklow leads in assists per set. Kreklow was also featured in this week's Sports Illustrated "Faces in the Crowd," a weekly feature profiling standout amateur athletes.
Despite the recognition, Kreklow remained focused on warming up for practice.
When Little arrived at practice, she hadn't yet heard of Kreklow's S.I. profile. When shown on a smartphone, she quickly grabbed it and excitedly read the piece over.
"Molly Kreklow, you're beautiful," Little said aloud in an attempt to get Kreklow's attention across the court. She continued to admire the S.I. profile as she waited for a response from Kreklow.
"What are you talking about?" Kreklow asked, temporarily stopping her warm-up.
"Your beauty," Little responded with a smile. She paused before continuing. "And Sports Illustrated."
Little, like Kreklow, has taken the same approach in dealing with the national recognition of her play. Along with leading in hitting, Little also has the nation's lowest attack errors with just six total.
"It's exciting," Little said. "But I try not to think about it. I'd rather focus on the team and everything else than what I'm doing."
The team has put up tremendous statistics this season as well. The Tigers are ranked in the top five in every statistical category (kills, assists, hits), and are currently the only team in the nation with those rankings. Missouri also has the chance to have its best record since Wayne and Susan Kreklow took over the program in 2000. If the team wins its next two games, at 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. in this weekend's Mizzou Classic, it will be the Tigers' best start since 1982.
Head coach Wayne Kreklow said that it's very easy to get distracted by all the numbers.
"We need to just say focused on executing and really playing the game," Kreklow said. "If we do that ... what will happen ... well, what I hope will happen, is that we'll continue to do well."