SANDCAST: Molly Turner’s unorthodox path to beach volleyball success

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GCU-Molly Turner-Grand Canyon-USA volleyball-Collegiate Beach Championships
Grand Canyon's Molly Turner celebrates a point/USA Volleyball photo

It’s difficult to blame Grand Canyon beach volleyball coach Kristen Rohr for forgetting. That time when she looked around at her group of players, the one that began the 2018 season ranked No. 10 in the country, and said how the GCU staff had chosen every one of them to come there, she forgot about Molly Turner.

“I was like, ‘Not me,’” Turner said, laughing, on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter. “I was the only one that wasn’t chosen by any of the coaches.”

Coming out of a small club in Naperville, Illinois, a suburb west of Chicago, Turner wasn’t specifically chosen or sought after by any college program.

Her first choice was more of a blanket choice: Any school in California would do. So she sent out emails to “every single school I could,” she said, naming, specifically, USC and Long Beach State. She didn’t hear back. So she tried the neighboring states, finding Grand Canyon University, a school in Phoenix with an enrollment of just more than 20,000.

“I’ll pretty much do anything to be on your team,” she recalled writing the coach in an email. “She said ‘I can’t really guarantee anything’ so I went and took a risk. I kind of went for volleyball even though I didn’t really have a spot yet but I got invited to walk on and I just kept playing.”

And playing quite well, quite fast. A 5-9 freshman season preceded an 18-8 sophomore campaign, one that began with an 8-match win streak. Then came a junior season in which Turner and Tjasa Kotnik won 22 matches to just three losses, culminating in All-American honors.

“Honestly the only difference between my freshman, sophomore and junior seasons was that I moved to San Diego over the summer and trained there,” Turner said. “So maybe that was it.”

Not that everyone noticed.

“One time we went to practice at GCU and there were some people on the courts, and we had our jerseys on and asked them to leave so we could practice, and they were like ‘Well, who are you with?’ ” Turner said, laughing, per usual. She told them, “We’re the beach volleyball team.”

After a sensational rookie season, one directly succeeded by her senior year at GCU, there is no more forgetting about Molly Turner.

After losing early in qualifiers in Austin and New York City — granted, she had to play against then-top-ranked Canadians Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan in New York — Turner qualified in Seattle, San Francisco, Hermosa and Chicago.

Three weeks after finishing 13th in her hometown, she played her first international tournament, a NORCECA alongside Falyn Fanoimoana, winning gold over UCLA’s Megan and Nicole McNamara.

“I like the path I went through,” Turner said. “It was pretty tough, and it still is kinda tough.”

Indeed. Turner still works three jobs. She trains four to five times a week to go along with conditioning and weight lifting. She’s learning how to recover. Not the most orthodox of systems, but then again, when has Turner’s path – cut from her high school indoor team, ignored by most every college aside from GCU, moving to San Diego on her own, moving to Redondo Beach to play AVP while working three jobs – has been orthodox, anyway?

“I don’t want to stop,” she said. “I just enjoy it so much.”

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