Welcome back to another edition of Rookie of the Week, where we introduce first-year athletes making a major impact in their chosen sport. This week, I sat down with Molly Harrison ’27 of women’s volleyball, who leads the team in kills this season. A native of Tiburon, Calif., Harrison discussed her origins in the sport, her slightly unusual role on the team and her favorite game as a Panther thus far.
Charles Crounse: Let’s start with the same question I have used in the other rookie interviews. I am sure you have been asked this many times before, but what drew you to Middlebury?
Molly Harrison: I was talking to a lot of schools for volleyball but I didn’t really know what I wanted. I knew I wanted to be on the east coast and I really loved Middlebury. I loved the coach and loved everything about the school, but I knew I wanted to visit a lot of schools before I knew where I wanted to be. During spring break of my junior year, I came to a bunch of east coast schools, and I walked away knowing that Middlebury was where I wanted to be. I had a feeling. I knew I wanted to be here.
CC: Can you tell me about how you got started with volleyball?
MH: When I was little I played soccer and did a little bit of basketball, but I first did a volleyball camp when I was nine. I lived near UC Berkeley and they ran camps with the players. I did camp there for a week and I really loved it. I joined the team that was there but then did a little bit of club hopping and found a club that I was at for six years. I fell in love with the sport after a few years playing it and knew that I wanted to do it in college.
CC: How did you settle on your current position?
MH: I’m a setter and a right side [hitter]. I’ve actually played every position in volleyball. When I first came to the club that I was at for six years I didn’t have a position because I was still young and just trying to improve overall. I did a little bit of hitting but I didn’t have a set position. My coaches said they didn’t think I was going to be tall enough to be a hitter but I could be a setter. I thought ok, great. I started setting a lot and really loved it and worked hard to get better at it, but then I got a lot taller and they said, oh, you can hit now too. Now I pretty much do both. Right now my role at Middlebury is hitting in games and setting in practice.
CC: Have you had a favorite game or moment on the court so far at Middlebury?
MH: I would have to say the Tufts game this past Friday [Sep. 29] was my favorite at Middlebury, maybe even ever. It was such a fun game — so fun to play, so fun to watch and so fun to experience. I loved being there with my teammates and the energy was so great. It was awesome to play super well against a team like that, not even just to beat them, but to play our game too. It was just a super fun experience.
CC: Right now, you are leading the team in kills, you are third for digs and second for blocks. Did you expect to start this season so well from an individual standpoint?
MH: I came in not really knowing what my role was going to be. I was recruited as a setter, but my coach did also know that I could hit. We had that conversation beforehand; I knew they needed two setters in practice and I’m always down to whatever the team needs. I wasn’t originally going to hit but in one of the games my coach put me in when it was needed. I just kept playing in that role and tried to do my best and that’s where we are now. I had no idea what was going to happen, I just told my coach that I’m a go-with-the-flow type of person and will do whatever they tell me, and now we’re here.
CC: Looking ahead and thinking about the team as a whole, do you have any goals for the rest of the season?
MH: Right now, we’re second in the NESCAC which is pretty awesome. We have some pretty big games coming up these next few weeks so it would be awesome to just keep doing well in conference play. I’d say that’s a current goal. Another goal for us is to do well in the NESCAC tournament, and ultimately possibly make the DIII [NCAA] tournament, but for right now we’re just focusing on doing well in the NESCAC and playing well in the next few games.
CC: Do you have a favorite pregame ritual?
MH: I love listening to music, especially on the bus rides to games, but honestly, just being around teammates and getting hyped around them is probably what gets me most ready for the game. We warm up, we come an hour or two early and we try to get in the mindset together to get ready for the game.
CC: I have heard mixed opinions about home games versus away games. Do you have a preference for one or the other?
MH: I prefer home games, but I do understand the appeal of away games. I love the bus because you can listen to music and get in the zone. However, I do just love home games, because the feeling of playing in [Pepin Gym] is really special.
CC: Do you have a favorite thing to do at Middlebury outside of volleyball?
MH: During preseason we would go to the different swimming holes. We went to Lake Dunmore, Falls of Lana, and Bristol Falls. I love that there are places like that in Vermont. The nature here is amazing and I’m just really glad I’ve gotten to experience it.
Editor’s Note: This interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity. Lexi Linafelter ’24 is a sports editor and a captain of the women’s volleyball team.
Charles Crounse '24 (he/him) is the senior sports editor for the Campus. He has previously worked as a writer and staff editor for the section. Charles is pursuing a major in environmental policy and a minor in French, and in his free time he enjoys biking, hiking, and exploring Vermont. He is also a member of the club soccer team on campus.