Highly touted Molly McCage doing best to meet lofty expectations

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Freshman Molly, McCage the No. 1 recruit in the country, has a lot of experience on her side. She and the other freshmen are filling holes for the Longhorns that last year's senior class left.  

Photo Credit: Andrew Torrey | Daily Texan Staff

For the second year in a row, Texas head coach Jerritt Elliott has coached the Big 12 preseason Freshman of the Year. Last season it was sophomore middle blocker/outside hitter Khat Bell. This season freshman Molly McCage was given the title.

“It is an honor,” McCage said. “I think that it is a bit of pressure, but I am not that nervous because we have very good freshmen here ... With the new freshmen and having the upperclassmen together, it will put us at ease and make us more comfortable.”

Bell ended her freshman campaign early with a knee injury against Kansas State. One of Bell’s teammates, outside hitter Haley Eckerman, went on to win the Big 12 Freshman of the Year award in 2011.

McCage highlights this year’s freshman class, which features four of the top 20 incoming freshmen, according to Prep Volleyball, and has been labeled as one of the top recruiting classes in the nation. The five freshmen are trying to fill the void left by a large and talented senior class that helped Texas make three trips to the NCAA Final Four.

The 6-foot-3-inch middle blocker from Spring, Texas, was ranked as the top recruit in the nation by Prep Volleyball this season. As a high school sophomore, McCage was on the Soph 79 List, Prep Volleyball’s list of the top 79 high school sophomore varsity players in the country. In her junior year, Prep Volleyball had McCage on its list of Top 25 Juniors while Volleyball Magazine listed her as one of the Top 25 Underclassmen to watch.

Finally, as a senior, McCage earned the No. 1 national ranking that leads to the high expectations that Texas has for her. In addition, McCage was named an All-American her senior season by both Prep Volleyball and Under Armour.

“We are excited about Molly,” Elliott said. “She is a very physical athlete, very fast off the floor with a good arm. I think she has the potential to be a great middle blocker in terms of her attacking and blocking abilities along with her speed.”

The modest McCage has acknowledged that despite being No. 1 coming in to Texas, she has to earn her spot on the court and has room to improve.

“Individually, I could block better, I could contribute more,” McCage said. “I could take away more area for my defense in the back row and just keep up the energy.”

Outside of high school, McCage has experience all around the world. In both 2010 and 2011, she served as a member of the U.S. Girls Youth National Team that competed in many tournaments including the NORCEA Girls’ Youth Continental Championship in 2010 and the World Championships in 2011. In 2010, McCage served as captain for the national team. 

“Internationally, the speed of the game is a lot quicker, it’s very offensive, there are girls that jump high, hit hard,” McCage said. “It wasn’t as hard or as fast as college, but I think it prepared me…. You have a lot of pressure on yourself because you’re from the United States, and at Texas it’s the same thing. You have to hold up that reputation.”

So far this season, McCage has 39 kills through 14 matches with a .386 hitting percentage. Against Louisville this past Monday night, she posted a season-high eight kills across five sets.

She has led the team in three matches with blocks, averaging 1.17 per set and has 43 blocks on the season, third highest on the team behind Bell and senior utility Sha’Dare McNeal. Her 1.17 blocks per set puts her third in the Texas record books.

Printed on Wednesday, October 10, 2012 as: McCage grows up fast, lives up to expectations