An all-district volleyball selection would be nice, but Molly Phillips is aiming a little higher this summer.
Phillips, a sophomore-to-be at Mansfield, recently was named to the USA Volleyball Girls Youth National Training Team after a week-long camp in Indianapolis.
As one of just 24 players from across the country to make the cut, Phillips will now workout for USA Volleyball coaches in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., later this month with hopes of being one of 12 players to make the national team.
The national team of 15- and 16-year-olds will then compete in national tournaments, including a December competition in Puerto Rico.
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Phillips, a 6-4 middle, has been playing volleyball for just three years.
“I was six feet in fifth or sixth grade,” Phillips said. “I played basketball when I was younger but decided this last year to just play volleyball. It’s such a team sport.”
Several great coaches since her start at age 12 have been keys to Phillips’ rapid rise in her skills on the court, including Mansfield head coach Taylor Elrod.
Phillips started on varsity in her freshman year under Elrod, when the Lady Tigers finished in a tie for first in the district race. They were ousted in the first round of the playoffs.
While playing with the Texas Image select league team, Phillips said she still gains valuable experience in the varsity season.
“It’s a lot different playing with older girls,” Phillips said of the varsity experience. “Most of the team last year was juniors and seniors. They were all very welcoming and with Coach Elrod, it helped with the transition.”
Although her time playing volleyball isn’t as long as many other players, her love for the game grew rapidly.
Phillips said growing up in Texarkana, volleyball wasn’t as revered a sport as basketball. She started playing volleyball in the YMCA league with friends as a gangly pre-teen.
“I was not good at all,” she admitted. “I was lanky and did not have much control over myself. A lot of coaches helped me.”
On the court now, Phillips’ leadership stands out as much as her height. Her aggressive style is a strength, she feels.
During the summer, Phillips continues to keep her conditioning in check and also works with a trainer to maintain her strength.
Being versatile is an aspect Phillips said she is working to improve upon, which will help her in the quest for a national team spot as well as helping return Mansfield to the playoffs.
“We are so proud of all she has accomplished,” Elrod said, “and we are excited about how these opportunities will help her grow.”
Eventually, Phillips hopes to be a part of an even more prestigious team.
“It has always been my goal to make the Olympic team,” Phillips said. “It would be an honor to play for the USA in that setting.
She said the 2020 Olympics might be too soon for her to reach that level, but 2024 is certainly a target.