After injuries and key departures, Texas had several questions surrounding its frontcourt. While all weren’t answered, freshman middle blocker Molly Phillips was able to solve many.
Phillips has started off strong for the Longhorns, tallying 71.5 points and 42 total blocks. Many of these points have come on the biggest stages. In matches against top teams like Stanford and Minnesota, Phillips stepped up with 16 kills in two games on a hitting percentage of .464. These strong performances earned her Big 12 Rookie of the Week honors.
“It was surprising. Honestly, I never thought I would be in that position so early,” Phillips said. “It showed me that I can do this. I’m here at this level for a reason.”
Self-assurance has always been a big factor for Phillips. Even as a child, she had to develop this skill in the midst of moving around constantly.
“Growing up, I moved around a lot. I wasn’t always with the same group of friends, which made me adapt,” Phillips said. “I had to make new friends, which developed my people skills.”
Phillips grew up in an athletic family with a father and several cousins that played college football, so she made it a goal to continue the athletic line by playing sports at the highest level.
“I grew up in an athletic family, so (playing college sports) was always a goal of mine,” Phillips said. “I think it’s a big part of my background.”
Eventually, volleyball emerged as her favorite sport. Her love for the game, compoundedawitha“well-developed” people skills, became a significant step on her path to Texas.
“I used to play basketball, but I chose volleyball because it is such a team sport,” Phillips said. “In volleyball, you can’t win a game with one good player. Everyone has to play as a unit. I think that’s an important part of the game.”
Phillips’ respect and admiration for teamwork helped her ascend quickly up the recruiting ladder. As a senior at Mansfield High in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, Phillips became one of the best players in the country, recording 768 kills and grabbing Second Team Under Armour All-American Honors and a NORCECA Continental championship for the junior national team.
These accolades culminated in Phillips’ No.16 overall ranking by PrepVolleyball. The middle blocker was pursued by and attracted to several schools, but Phillips held a firm commitment to Texas.
“It was just the family that they have here which attracted me,” Phillips said. “I just wanted to be able to excel on the court and academically — this a place where you can do both.”
Phillips was thrust into the fire immediately after the departure of Morgan Johnson and an injury to sophomore middle blocker Brionne Butler.
“I wanted to have a big role, but I didn’t know where that would be,” Phillips said. “But my name was called, and I was just excited for that opportunity to get into a real situation.”
Phillips made an immediate impact in the first game of the season, tallying a hitting percentage of .500. Her skills, which were displayed early on, have continued to grow and impress Texas head coach Jerritt Elliott.
“For what their role is right now in terms of coming in and having to take on so much responsibility, she has done a phenomenal job,” Elliott said. “More importantly she’s been great to coach, responsive and fun to be around.”
The recent success and positive feedback has created a sense of comfort for Phillips in a new environment.
“I’m getting more comfortable just being myself on the court,” Phillips said. “What I mean by that is not be like, ‘Oh this is new, but this is the same thing I’ve done every day.’”
Phillips hopes this consistency lasts for the next three years and that she can continue to have a big role guiding the team in a positive direction.
“I just want to make my mark here,” Phillips said.