By Matt Kane
MATSUMOTO, JAPAN Molly Kreklow’s trek to the 2016 Summer Olympic Games continued last week, when she was named to the US Women’s National Volleyball team roster for the FIVB World Cup, which began Saturday in Japan.
“Definitely, my goal and dream is to play in the Olympics, but to achieve that, I really have to make sure I’m staying in the moment and really focusing on World Cup so that I give myself a better opportunity to improve and get better,” Kreklow is quoted on her biography page at TeamUSA.org.
Being picked for the World Cup roster is a huge deal, but it does not guarantee Kreklow a spot on the Olympic squad.
A 2010 graduate of Delano High School and a 2013 graduate of the University of Missouri, Kreklow was one of two setters chosen for the team by head coach Karch Kiraly, an Olympic veteran. The other setter is Alisha Glass out of Penn State.
Glass is coming off an injury. She is the the two-time reigning USA Volleyball Female Indoor Athlete of the Year and 2014 FIVB World Championship Best Setter.
Kreklow has a pretty good resumé of her own, as she was named the Best Setter at the 2015 FIVB Grand Prix.
While at Missouri, Kreklow set the Tigers to a school-record .356 hitting efficiency in 2013. She started every match during her tenure at Missouri.
Kreklow’s success at a high level in the athletic world may be in her blood. At Missouri, Kreklow played for her uncle, Wayne Kreklow, who played on the 1980-81 Boston Celtics team. Her dad, Mike Kreklow, played two years of basketball at Wisconsin before transfering to Drake, where her mother, Marcia, played volleyball.
“We are all very proud of Molly, that she is playing with the Women’s National Volleyball Team,” Marcia said. “To see her on the same court with these girls is amazing, and to be able to watch this level of volleyball is really fun.”
Kreklow’s family was unable to travel with her to Japan, but are watching the games on Universal Sports.
Kreklow is one of three Minnesotans on the 14-player World Cup roster. The other two are Tori Dixon of Burnsville and Lauren Gibbemeyer of St. Paul. Both are middle blockers and both played at the University of Minnesota.
Kreklow will wear No. 18.
The US team is ranked No. 1 heading into the World Cup, and for good reason. The American women won gold in the 2014 FIVB World Championships, the 2015 FIVB World Grand Prix, the 2015 Pan American Games, and the 2015 Pan American Cup.
A gold-medal win in Japan would give the Americans the FIVB Triple Crown completing the trifecta after the wins at the World Championship and Grand Prix.
The US has never won gold at the FIVB World Cup. Doing so in Japan will come with a berth in next summer’s Olympic Games, which are in Rio. A second-place finish at the World Cup also comes with an Olympic berth.
The US women have won three silver medals and one bronze in the last eight Summer Olympic Games. The program is still looking for its first Olympic gold.
The World Cup schedule is made up of 11 round-robin matches that takes the US team to three cities in 16 days.
The Americans played Korea and Serbia last weekend in Matsumoto, and play three more games in the city (vs. China Aug. 24; vs. Perus Aug. 26; vs. Algeria Aug. 27). The US team will then move on to Okayama, where it will play Kenya (Aug. 29), Argentina (Aug. 30), and Cuba (Sept. 1); and wraps up the tournament in Nagoya, where it will play Russia (Sept. 4), Japan (Sept. 5) and the Dominican Republic (Sept. 6).
Kreklow will then play professionally in Istanbul, Turkey, and hopes to be back with the national team in the spring.