As the regular season comes to a close this coming week, so does the game of volleyball for four seniors, as setter Paige Brown, outside hitters Emily Corrigan and Jess Keller, and libero Meghan Mahoney will all take their individual talents into the real world after the Sun Belt Conference Tournament beginning Nov. 19. For two of these seniors, however, it will also be the end of nearly a 10-year bond that began with the very game they’ll be giving up.
Meghan Mahoney and Paige Brown met when they were both 12 years old, while playing for MAVS Volleyball, a club team out of Kansas. As Brown was being recruited by App, head coach Matt Ginipro noticed someone in addition to her during one game. While facing off against a team with a 6-foot-3 player who would later commit to Iowa State, Mahoney, or “Mo,” made two incredible digs on hard hit kills look easy. It was at that very moment that Ginipro, who was sitting next to Brown’s dad at the time, asked who she was, and began recruiting Mahoney.
When Brown heard the news that her friend and libero had the opportunity to play four more years with her, she was all over it. When it came time to look at and tour colleges, one campus stood out beyond the rest: Appalachian State University. Brown, whose sister Lauren was also a setter for the Mountaineers’ volleyball team, was pretty set on App State as her choice — the final piece to the puzzle would be convincing Mahoney. Once Mahoney was convinced Boone was the place to be, there were no regrets.
“When you bring in a setter, why wouldn’t you want to bring in the person that’s been digging her balls for years?” Ginipro said. “Because of that their connection on the court across the last four years has been amazing.”
And those words have held a lot of meaning, as Mahoney has helped the team stay amongst the tops of the conference in digs with 1,530 total, contributing 437 individually, good for sixth in the Sun Belt. Brown has also been equally influential, as she has propelled the Mountaineers to first in assists with 1255 in 92 sets, including 1,095 individually, also good for first overall in the Sun Belt.
Despite being the closest of friends, the two are very different players on the court.
“I think we balance each other out really well because Mo is really calm and steady and I can get kind of intense sometimes,” Brown said.
Ginipro agreed, saying that when Mahoney speaks up in practice people listen because what she says is constructive. But it doesn’t come very often compared to Paige, who is much more vocal, he said.
“I feel like I know how she plays and how she responds, and she knows how I respond, so we’re able to be really good teammates to each other,” Mahoney said about Brown.
The relationship between the libero and setter is very important which is likely what has made Appalachian so successful. The two are able to pick each other up, help each other out and occasionally get onto each other to help out the team as a whole.
“I feel like she has really come out of her shell and has become an amazing leader and I’ve been able to learn a lot from her,” Mahoney said.
Outside of the game of volleyball, the two will pursue careers in education. Brown is a double major who wants to teach chemistry in potentially a developing nation or Spanish speaking country, while Mahoney wants to be an elementary school teacher and feels she has a gift for interacting with kids.
Ginipro said he will miss the two of them, as he has watched them grow up to become amazing adults and individuals during their four years playing volleyball at App.
Mahoney, he said, struggled with being a vocal leader which is outside of her comfort zone and throughout the years has improved greatly. Paige, nearly the exact opposite, struggled with knowing when and when not to explode with emotion, a trait he says relates back to himself. Having learned how to reign that characteristic in, Ginipro believes that it will go beyond volleyball and help her in the real world with coworkers and other adults.
The two have obviously impacted the team and the record books with great force, and will be missed beyond measure by the teammates they will leave behind.
However, the season isn’t over yet, as they still have two more away games at Arkansas State Nov. 12 and Little Rock on Nov. 13 before the Sun Belt Tournament from Nov. 19-21. These final games will write the final chapter in their illustrious Mountaineer careers.
Story by: Noah Gerringer, Sports Reporter