Brooke Murphy will play volleyball at GSCC

Brooke Murphy began her varsity volleyball career at Jacksonville High School for head coach David Clark as a defensive specialist in her sophomore season. At Jacksonville’s signing celebration on Wednesday, Murphy committed to continue her volleyball career at Gadsden State for another coach Clark. In the fall, she’ll be playing for Connie Clark, the wife of her high school coach.

“I’m very excited,” Murphy said of the prospect of playing at Gadsden State. This summer, she’ll be helping at a Gadsden State camp, the same camp she attended as a high school player.        

As a junior, Murphy was primarily a back-row player again but moved to setter for about 15 matches.

Murphy said playing defense fueled her initial love for volleyball. “The thrill of a good dig, having to dive and getting it back up,” she said.  

She was the full-time setter last fall as a senior, a transition she made smoothly. Her senior statistics include a staggering 1,356 assists. She also served 160 aces, recorded 80 kills, made 30 digs and had 15 blocks.  

“Your whole job is to see the blockers, know who your hitters are and get the best ball wherever it needs to go,” Murphy explained. That explanation makes her role as setter sound simple enough but the speed of play in a game means there’s little to no time to ponder where to send the ball. Decisions have to be made immediately. “You never know what’s going to happen.”            

Murphy understands nothing is guaranteed at Gadsden State. Without significant height or special jumping ability, she knows it’s not likely that she will be called upon to play along the front row as an outside or middle hitter. However, she could return to the back row.

“I love setting but anywhere I can be on the court, I’m good,” Murphy said.

After Gadsden State, Murphy plans to transfer to a four-year school and complete a degree in radiology. While her playing career will eventually end, her love for volleyball won’t.

“I can always find a place that has volleyball. I can always coach. I can always find a club that needs somebody to coach,” Murphy said. “It’s never going to be fully out of my life.”

Mallory Bell headed to Southern Union

It will be on to Southern Union when Jacksonville High School senior Mallory Bell graduates in May. At a ceremony recognizing athletes who have received scholarship opportunities on Wednesday, Bell formally committed to play for the Bison and coach Ally Silva.

Bell played shortstop, third base and pitcher for the Golden Eagles last year after working at third base and first base her sophomore season. She expects to stay on the left side of the infield at Southern Union which is fine with her because, as she noted, “That’s the hottest spot.”

Silva saw Bell play in a travel ball tournament last summer and asked if she might have any interest in playing at Southern Union. Bell was receptive to that possibility and conversations eventually led to a scholarship offer.

Southern Union is fairly isolated in Wadley. Bell said she’s been in larger places all her life to this point. “That’ll be a good change,” she said of the Southern Union location.

Bell estimates she’s been playing softball since she was five years old.

“As soon as I could hold a ball and a bat, that’s the first thing I did,” she recalled.

She’s come to live for the defining moments in a game – tie game in the bottom of the last inning, winning run on third base and a full count on the hitter.

“I’m the person that wants to be in the box. It’s just a love for the game that’s developed over the years, being in that situation,” Bell said.         

Bell hit .386 as a sophomore and led the Eagles with 16 doubles and 30 RBI. Last year, her batting average jumped to .455 and her hits included three home runs. She had a .761 slugging percentage and her on-base percentage was .515, up from .467 in 2016. Bell knocked in 24 runs as a junior.

While her offensive numbers are special, she’s come to accept that every at-bat isn’t going to produce the result she wants.

“When I have bad days, I honestly think about the fact that having bad days is all a part of the journey,” Bell said. “It’s all a part of being better than you were the day before and every great athlete goes through terrible days. I use that to motivate me from there on out – not to have a day like that again.”

When her playing days are finished, Bell plans to work in occupational therapy, specializing in children with special needs.