Spotlight On: Molly Smalt has made all the difference for Rye volleyball

When Molly Smalt made her return to the volleyball court this season, the Garnets didn’t just gain another senior with experience. According to head coach Tim Tolve, they got their “heart and soul” back.

Smalt tore her ACL in a collision with a teammate during practice last October, which resulted in a November surgery and many months of vigorous rehabilitation. The hard work paid off though, because Smalt and her infectious smile are back, and the results are evident on the court. Rye is 6-3 thanks in part to Smalt’s intense concentration and focus. She’s always the first player to celebrate a good point, or to encourage a player who has missed a shot. Smalt is a leader who is loved, respected, and admired by teammates and coaches alike.

Molly Smalt

Molly Smalt

A starter on the volleyball team since her freshman year, Smalt has turned it on in her final season in Garnet and Black. She has connected on 156 out of 169 serves for a 92 percent success rate, and has stifled the competition with 28 aces. Smalt has also made 103 out of 119 attack attempts for an 87 percent hitting rate with 30 kills. In addition, the team leader has 33 digs, 10 assists and two blocks.

“Molly does wonders for our team,” said Tolve. “She adds a very tough serve to our rotation and is an extremely difficult player for opponents to stop on the right side with her hard, lefty hitting. Aside from great physical play, Molly always gives 100 percent and is a very positive presence.”

For Smalt, it all begins with an incredible passion for the game.

“I love volleyball because it’s all about teamwork and the players are so supportive and encouraging,” she said. “It’s also about the momentum – when a team gets going, they can do anything. It feels so good when we’re all pumped up and the crowd get excited. I get such a rush from serving a solid ace or attacking the ball hard for a kill, and there is nothing like the feeling of working together to execute a clean play at a crucial moment. It’s so satisfying.”

While Smalt’s healthy return has been a boon for the Garnets, it has also ensured a happy ending to the tale of the Smalt dynasty in the Rye City School District. The family history in these hallowed halls dates back to 1935, when Molly’s maternal grandfather graduated from the first class to go all the way through the then-new Rye High School. When Smalt graduates in June, she will finish her journey through the footsteps of those that came before her. Along with her grandfather, Smalt’s mother, uncle, and two older sisters all began at Milton Elementary and finished at Rye High.

Smalt also shares a volleyball heritage with her mother, Dr. Ruth Herron Smalt, and sisters Robin and Lindy. Dr. Smalt, who graduated in 1977, played the sport under coach Del Layne, and Robin and Lindy were both captains of their respective teams.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed watching my three daughters play volleyball over the past decade,” said Dr. Smalt. “Seeing the program grow and the level of play heighten speaks well for Rye athletics and its coaches. I will miss these days on the bleachers of Rye, and will cheer on the next batch of parents and players. Play full out!”

For Molly, who boasts a 96 GPA and hopes to be a medical doctor or archeologist one day, the story isn’t finished just yet.

“Volleyball is part of a great tradition of Rye sports,” she said. “Together we are striving for excellence, always pushing ourselves to raise the bar.”

– Melanie Cane


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