Sep 6, 2013
By Jerry Hill Baylor Bear Insider
As a key player on Iowa State's Sweet 16 team last season, Andie Malloy posted double-digit kills in the Cyclones two NCAA Tournament victories and earned Big 12 All-Freshman honors.
But the 6-foot-2 outside hitter from Allen, Texas, wanted more. And Malloy was willing to "give all that up" for a faith-based decision that has stunned the collegiate volleyball world.
Two weeks before the start of fall practice, Malloy informed Iowa State coach Christy Johnson-Lynch that she was leaving the program and seeking a transfer to a school closer to home and with more of a Christian culture.
That led her to Baylor's doorstep last Monday, Aug. 26, when she enrolled for classes - without a scholarship - and then joined the volleyball program. Without a release from Iowa State, Malloy has to sit out this season and wasn't even able to contact the Baylor coaches until after her first day of classes.
"It's an amazing story," Baylor head coach Jim Barnes said. "She and her family made a big leap of faith. . . . It's an incredible sacrifice for her to come here and be a part of this culture. She pretty much put her money where her mouth is, because she gave up quite a lot to be here at Baylor."
Going to classes that first week was just affirmation for Malloy, who said she loves "going to chapel."
"I just love absorbing all the information that I can from the different guest speakers," she said. "And then actually hearing Bible verses in some of the classes that I've been to, I just love how open that is, because I try to put that aspect into my life, and now other people are putting it into my life. That's amazing." While her family has to foot the bill for a full year at Baylor, one of the hardest parts for Malloy is sitting out this season.
"It will be very tough," said Malloy, a first-team Under Armour All-American and the 35th-ranked recruit nationally when she signed with Iowa State after winning four consecutive Texas state championships at Lovejoy High School. "I did think about it, but at the end of the day you just need to be happy. Volleyball is definitely one of my passions, but my No. 1 priority is God. I want to increase my relationship with Him and also be surrounded by girls that have the same morals and values that I do. And this group of girls is incredible."
Helping the transition is the fact that Malloy was teammates with Baylor sophomores Laura Jones and Adrien Richburg with the Skyline Juniors Volleyball Club in Dallas, a program that also produced freshmen Omotola Itiola and Katie Staiger.
"We had no idea at the time, of course, but what's neat is the chemistry that those three had," associate head coach Mark Pryor said of Malloy, Jones and Richburg.
"Those three were really the three on that team that drove them to such a high national ranking and made it such a fun group to watch, regardless of where they were going to school."
But from the very first day, Malloy has been welcomed by every player on the team. "Sometimes, you may see jealousy or people worried about what position she plays," Barnes said. "But this team also puts their money where their mouth is. They're very unselfish. I haven't seen one unselfish act since she's joined this team. That says a lot about this group."
Although she can't play for the Bears this season, Malloy is allowed to practice, "and she will probably be the best B-side player in the nation, which can only make us better," Pryor said.
"It's going to be wonderful to have that in the gym, to where all she's worrying about is how am I going to make this team better without me scoring a point," Pryor said. "Now, it's not going to be easy for her, because she's always played. But I think that's where she's going to experience even more growth. And she'll probably have an opportunity to maybe understand the game a little better, just from being removed from it for a little bit. She could come back an even better player."
At a practice last week on the team's trip to Colorado, Barnes said Malloy "went up and hit her first ball, and hit it really hard, and we dug it."
"I think it helps both sides. She's getting to compete, and our players are getting challenged," Barnes said. "But they're also gaining confidence, because they're seeing that they're playing right with her."
During an unbelievable four-year run at Lovejoy, the Leopards were 137-19 and won four consecutive state championships. Malloy was twice named the state tournament MVP and was the Class 3A Player of the Year for three years running.
"It was such a blessing," she said. "My coach (Ryan Mitchell), I grew with him basically my entire life. He was my first club coach and then got the job at Lovejoy, and then he was my 18 club coach (with the Skyline program). So, I started and finished with him. He's just incredible, just the life lessons that he taught me."
Pryor said Malloy has always been a winner. "I can't tell you the last time she really hasn't been successful," he said. "Being a player and then growing into a leader, to where not only her game speaks for itself, but she's able to inspire and motivate. Those are intangibles that you just don't find all the time."
Malloy has also been involved with the USA Junior Volleyball program since eighth grade, playing for the U20 team this summer that played in the World Championships in Czechoslovakia.
"It was a very talented group of girls, and they pushed me every day in the gym and made me better," she said. "I've been able to travel to some awesome places (with USA Volleyball). I'm just excited and blessed that I got that opportunity."
As a true freshman at Iowa State, Malloy ranked seventh in the Big 12 with 3.17 kills per set in league play and had double-digit kills in six of the team's last eight matches. She earned Big 12 Rookie of the Week honors twice and hit .189 with 142 kills, 119 digs, 17 blocks and 14 service aces.
"That experience was great. I wouldn't change it for the world," Malloy said. "It's got me tow here I am today, and I have nothing but good things to say about the coaches and the team there. . . . It was definitely a learning experience for me. And I realized that I'm a Texas girl. I've got to be close to home."
Although she tried to talk her out of her decision, Johnson-Lynch ultimately said, "I feel that she made the right decision. And it's hard to say that, because you want to keep everyone you can. But if they're miserable or if they're unhappy, then it's not going to work out."
If it was strictly up to Johnson-Lynch, who Barnes described as "really classy," Malloy would have received an unconditional release and been able to play immediately at Baylor. But Iowa State's athletic department has a rule that the school will not release any student-athlete to another Big 12 school.
"She was already getting inquiries from top-10 schools," Barnes said. "She could have played right away, and some of them even had a scholarship open. There were big-time schools coming in when they heard she was looking at leaving. But if she came to Baylor, she had to give all that up."
Which makes her decision all that more amazing.
Malloy has played setter and both left- and right-side hitter. But as far as her future position at Baylor, she said, "I just love playing volleyball. Just get me out there."
"We see her as one of those players that could be a six-rotation kid," Pryor said. "And I think to pigeonhole her in a spot right now would probably be a mistake on our part. But what makes it nice is her versatility. . . . It's one of those things that we'll find out once she gets going and what's going to be the best fit for her and where she can help the team the most."
The Bears, off to a 1-3 start after a 3-0 sweep of SMU on Tuesday, will host the Baylor Classic this weekend at the Ferrell Center. Baylor faces Tulsa at 7 p.m. Friday, UT-Arlington at 10 a.m. Saturday and then closes out with a match against Mississippi State at 7 p.m. Saturday.