For Oak Ridge 2019 graduates Mollie and Sophie Thompson, volleyball has been a part of their entire life — literally since the day they were born.
These twins entered the world together, and their older sister and future head coach Whitney McFall was there with her college volleyball team.
As fate would have it, Mollie and Sophie will be side-by-side for the next four years as well on the court at Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri. The Thompsons signed their national letters of intent Nov. 18 after helping lead the Blue Jays to a program-record 23 wins this season to finish their high school career.
One of their longtime teammates Maggie Howe signed with Stephens College before they did, and McFall informed them the program was in need of defenders.
Mollie and Sophie each garnered All-Conference, All-District honors and were on the All-Woodland Tournament team, but playing college volleyball wasn’t on their mind.
“We went and tried out, we looked at the school and we were like, ‘We both loved it,’ and it’s all girls, which is even better because we don’t have to worry about guys,” Sophie laughed. “And it’s right in downtown, so it’s perfect.”
Stephens College offered them both scholarships after their visit, and the two “jumped on” the opportunity because, “Why wouldn’t we?” Mollie said.
“I never imagined being able to play on the college level,” Mollie said. “I thought I was too small, too weak. Coming from a small school you never think you’re going to be offered anything, but then they did.”
Sophie said even if the opportunity to play collegiately had come before Stephens College, neither of them thought they would be doing so at the same school.
“That’s the thing we really enjoyed the most was getting to play together still, so then at least I know her,” Sophie joked. “We get to room together, so it’s even better.”
Sophie added she is not nervous at all about attending college now that she’ll be doing so with her sister, but Mollie said she will be nervous about being so far away from home. It will also help with Howe being on the team, who has also been a vital part to Oak Ridge’s success.
“She’s dependable — if we were in trouble it’s just like, ‘Get the ball to Maggie,’” Mollie laughed. “Get a pass, get a good set and get the ball to Maggie and let her put it down. I’m excited she’s coming with us.”
The two started playing volleyball in sixth grade, but they didn’t start taking it serious until the next year when they moved to Oak Ridge and McFall was now their coach.
This is when Mollie and Sophie were members of a travel club volleyball team and discovered if they wanted to do well in the sport, then they would have to train in their spare time.
“We got in shape with an acceleration camp, and it was a lot of agility and vertical work,” Mollie said.
Another reason why the Thompsons had quick success on the court is because of the chemistry they have being twins. Sophie said they don’t even have to talk to know what’s on their mind.
“We can read each other’s minds if we’re doing something,” Sophie said. “We know to move a certain way.”
Mollie added to that by saying the two trust each other more than anyone else because she knows Sophie will get to the ball and vice versa. However, there are also times where one will assert dominance, “No, that’s my ball.”
Mollie and Sophie play different positions, so they also know there’s times where one will have more touches than the other.
“You’re sad that you didn’t get it, but you’re happy that she did,” Mollie said. “You just kind of use it to make yourself better.”
Sophie has played multiple positions for Oak Ridge, but she focused a little bit more at outside hitter this year. She had 89 kills, 42 aces and 198 digs this year along with a serving percentage of 94. Mollie is a libero and recorded a team-high 302 digs, while also recording 25 aces and 13 kills in 2018.
These two also spend all of their time together doing whatever it is they like, which is usually shopping if they aren’t playing or working on becoming better volleyball players. One interesting thing about being twins is people will get them mixed up, but Mollie and Sophie also share everything, like clothing.
“I’ll buy something, and I know she’s going to wear it, so she might as well like it when I get it,” Mollie said.
Mollie said with Oak Ridge being a smaller community, she and the rest of the team really became a family. The Blue Jays wanted to win a district championship this season, but winning 23 games is something for this team to hang their hats on.
“We’ve all bonded since seventh grade, and they all want it just as much as the rest of us do,” Sophie said. “That was really helpful, and our bond is amazing. We really meshed.”
Another way these players all bonded was in the traveling camps they were members of in the summer by staying up late in hotel rooms together. “The real bonding experience is when you do that stuff,” Mollie said.
Mollie and Sophie each enjoyed attending school in a small town because of how much the community would be involved like packing the gym for Pink Out games or against their rival Leopold.
The major thing these sisters learned by playing for their older sister Whitney was how to play under pressure because of how much she expected from them. Sophie also said Whitney gave them the confidence to be successful on the court.
“She built us up so high, so by playing up to her high standards I think really helped us,” Mollie said. “I also learned how to be a good teammate because being friends — you have to be someone else on the court. Even if you don’t really like the person, you have to be their best friend when you’re on the court.”
McFall and the team nicknamed Mollie and Sophie, “the old women,” for how much they are always talking and pushing each other.
Whitney said when her little sisters earned scholarships to play volleyball together at Stephens that it was, “the weirdest thing ever.” This is because twins usually don’t have the chance to do so, but she actually isn’t surprised since they have so much chemistry on the court.