It’s not easy being an underclassman in a sport, especially when you’re in a position that requires leadership.
But that’s where Clinton junior Brooke Mulholland found herself last year, and where she flourished to become the varsity player she is today.
Mulholland started as the River Queens’ setter as a sophomore, leading them through a successful season in 2017.
“I kind of knew what to expect, but it was a lot to take on still,” Mulholland said about her sophomore season. “I had a big problem with taking charge because I was so young … I didn’t want to say anything to make anybody mad. As I got more comfortable with the girls it was easier to be a leader on the court.”
You could visibly see her confidence grow throughout the season as she took on the appearance of a seasoned veteran by the time Clinton ended their season in a 5-set loss to North Scott. She led the teams in digs defensively and put up 575 sets that turned into River Queen points that year, averaging almost seven assists per game.
Setting is kind of where she’s always put her volleyball skills to use.
“My mom has always been a club volleyball coach and my sister played volleyball, so I started club volleyball in fifth grade,” Mulholland said. “I wasn’t tall enough to be a hitter and I wasn’t really interested in passing at the time so I stuck to setting. My sister was a setter, too, and kind of led me in that direction.”
She stepped into junior year in stride. She already has 418 assists on the season, nearing eight assists per set. Throw in 13 blocks and 112 digs and she’s having quite the year.
She’s graced with a talented front row to work with, too. She has 6’5 middle hitter and University of Iowa bound Grace Tubbs in her middle, along with Molly Chapman. Those two alone Account for over 250 kills this year.
“We’ve been playing together since my freshman year so we’re all more comfortable together and know each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” Mulholland said. “It’s a lot of fun knowing that they can put the ball away. It’s stress relieving and takes a bunch of weight off of me.”
She’s already one of the best setters in the area, and an obvious leader for the River Queens. Between her calling the offensive shots and the enthusiasm she brings to the court, the River Queens would definitely function entirely different without her.
Setter is definitely not an easy job. Mulholland is responsible for the second touch each time—it almost never matters where the ball is. She has to get to it and she has to play it in a way the River Queens can get an attack.
Luckily, she has a solid defense behind her. Haley Dash, Megan Gandrup, Mallory Melvin and Molly Chapman have control in the back row, getting her a lot of good passes to work off of.
After all, consistency is the hardest part of her job. Clinton’s biggest weakness this year has been the off hits and tips, landing short in the middle of the court. Mulholland knows there’s always room to improve.
“The set is really determined by the pass so it’s hard to set a consistent ball all the time,” Mulholland said. “Defensively, we’re really good and digging a hard driven ball. When they throw in those tips, we’re not really ready, myself too. I think that’s one of our bigger weaknesses is being ready for that tip and the hard driven ball.”
Clinton’s moved to a 13-7 record as the season winds down to it’s last month, and the River Queens have slipped into the Class 4A rankings at No. 11. The talented group of senior athletes, plus Mulholland at setter, are looking to keep improving. Mulholland believes that communication is where the improvement will come.
“We’re all a family I feel like. We bond well and they know my sets. I’m hoping as the season progresses we’re just going to keep doing better,” Mulholland said. “We have good communication but overall if we’re talking more … when we talk that’s when we get leads and that’s when we win the game. If talking just becomes second nature, that’s what we’re progressing towards.”
The River Queens have a week off before returning to Yourd Gymnasium for Senior Night. They will take on Davenport West next Tuesday, Sep. 25.