When freshman setter Mollie Blank made her collegiate decision, she chose to stay close to home.
The Mansfield native attended Mansfield High School, where she achieved accolades such as 4-6A Newcomer of the Year, was named to multiple All-Area and All-Academic teams and earned team MVP as a senior.
She signed with UTA in November 2019 as part of head coach J.T. Wenger’s 2020 recruiting class.
“Distance was a really big thing for me because I’m so close to my family,” Blank said. “Whenever I started talking to UTA, it was kind of like the perfect fit, distancewise and academically.”
Her family was one of the reasons she started playing volleyball at age 11, joining her first club team when she was 12 years old.
“[My oldest sister] played volleyball, and I wanted to be like her and do everything that she did,” Blank said. “My dad played college sports, so he was always into sports and pushed me to keep playing.”
Blank’s work ethic and resilience could play a key role as she enters her first year at UTA during the COVID-19 pandemic. Taylor Elrod Dennehy, Mansfield High volleyball coach, described Blank as the hardest worker in the room, saying she was determined and always had a great attitude during her time as a Tiger.
Throughout her high school career, Blank played 512 sets, recording 3,976 assists, 1,272 digs and 426 kills.
“I really enjoyed that she always held herself to such a high standard, but she also held her teammates to the same standard,” Dennehy said. “That’s really what ended up pushing her to have those amazing stats.”
Wenger had the opportunity to see Blank play at Mansfield High and witnessed her work ethic firsthand. He said he liked the way she played, her release on the ball and how she carried herself on the court.
“Through the recruiting process, learning about her, I just thought she would be a good fit for our program,” Wenger said.
Establishing relationships will help Blank fit into the program as the Mavericks head into the 2020 season. Junior setter Kylee Kapp said she is helping Blank and the team’s other freshmen feel comfortable making mistakes ahead of their first year.
“That’s what I struggled with a lot my freshman year, was getting into my own head,” Kapp said.
Blank is walking into a team that has improved its record over the past three seasons under Wenger, going from 13 wins in 2017 to 20 wins and a quarter finals appearance in the National Invitational Volleyball Championship in 2019. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mavericks will only be playing against five teams from the Sun Belt Conference’s west division this season.
“For [Blank] in particular, I’m looking forward to watching her compete and get more confidence and [get] comfortable and do what she’s been doing, which is playing good volleyball,” Wenger said.
Dennehy said she hopes Blank can make an impact in her freshman season and help develop the volleyball program during her time at UTA.
“[Blank’s] so adaptable, and she’s a great teammate and a great kid,” Dennehy said. “No matter who’s coaching her or who she’s playing with, she’s just going to do to the best of her ability, what she knows how to do.”