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Missouri volleyball shrugs off record-best start, focuses on improvement

Tuesday, October 8, 2013 | 10:55 p.m. CDT; updated 7:23 p.m. CDT, Saturday, November 2, 2013
Austin Peay's middle blocker Lauren Henderson faces off with senior Missouri setter Molly Kreklow at Hearnes Center on Tuesday. Despite Kreklow's efforts, Austin Peay scored on the play. Mizzou went on to defeat Austin Peay in all three sets.

COLUMBIA — Missouri coach Wayne Kreklow didn't even bring it up as he talked to reporters after Tuesday's match.

Missouri had just matched the school record for season-opening wins. The Tigers beat Austin Peay 25-10, 25-12, 25-12 to reach 19-0 and tie the 31-year-old record.

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Outsiders get caught up in the hype, the numbers, the records. Emails from the MU Athletics Department read "FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE" and announce rankings, player of the week accolades and win after win after win after win. Headlines tout tangible chances for teams to be great, to be remembered forever as a name in a record book.

But within the team, in the quiet of an empty stadium during practice or in the heat of a game, in the concentration on the faces of each player and coach, number aren't what matters. Wins don't beget wins.

Hard work does. Focus does.

"It's been a good thing that nobody really talks about the wins," Kreklow said. "But I do think this group understands that, at the end of the day, the record doesn't really mean anything anymore."

It's not that the team isn't pumped about being good.

"It's so exciting coming into a program that's so strong and so successful," freshman Loxley Keala said. "I've never been part of something like this. You know, I'm getting chicken skin just talking about it."

But there's always at least one thing to work on, which right now includes defending against right-side hitters.

"There's a lot of really smart people out there, so they look at video and they see our weaknesses," Kreklow said. "So we've gotta look at those as well and be honest and say, 'OK, we've gotta get better at this and keep working on it.'"

Missouri plays Tennessee on Friday. The game is scheduled to be televised, and a record will be on the line. But that's not what matters to Kreklow.

"It's more about things like ... where you fit in in terms of the tournament," he said. "I think the players now are savvy enough to know that ... the 19-0 doesn't really mean anything."

Supervising editor is Erik Hall.


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