When he was younger, volleyball wasn’t exactly high on the priority list for recently graduated Loyola High School of Los Angeles setter Michael Mullahey.
“I was always a basketball player,” he said. “Some people told my dad that I should play volleyball. He kind of dragged me by the ear to it. I tried out and enjoyed it and have been doing it ever since.”
And the 6-foot, 5-inch Mullahey has taken the proverbial ball and ran with it, this year helping the historic Cubs program win the CIF Southern California Division I regional title. His efforts have earned him the honor of the 2012 Mizuno/Volleyball Boys’ High School Player of the Year. Mullahey also was recently named the CIF-Southern Section Division I player of the year.
“We’ve had some pretty good setters here at Loyola with Brian Beckwith (Hawaii) and Jimmy Killian (USC),” Loyola coach Michael Boehle said. “His dedication to the sport, bar none, is better than anybody I’ve had here in my 15 years at Loyola. He demands it and demands it from his teammates. He’s a great leader. He expects nothing but the best from himself and his teammates. His goal is to make sure everybody is calm and collected out there and that everybody gets the job done. He possesses great leadership skills. Michael runs the show.”
Being a leader is something Mullahey feels is one of his greatest assets in the sport.
“Leadership is something I pride myself on,” he said. “It’s natural for a setter to be in a leadership position. A setter is kind of like a quarterback in football where you are controlling the flow of the game. I work hard at bringing the team together and getting everybody to rally around a particular person. It’s doing whatever it takes to win. You can always improve as a leader. I learned a lot this year about being a leader and hopefully I can continue to learn and get better.”
An off-the-charts work ethic also factors into Mullahey’s exemplary volleyball package.
“What sets him apart is his willingness to learn the game,” Boehle said. “Every day he wants to get better. He wants rep after rep after rep so he can get better.”
Mullahey has no qualms about putting in the necessary work in order to improve his game.
“There are days when practice can be a struggle a little bit,” he said. “But you need to push through. Those are the times you need to get better. If you work hard in practice that will translate into the game. I kind of have taken that to heart. You play the way you practice.”
For Mullahey, success on the court also has manifested itself due in part to his extreme attention to detail.
“I focus on the little things and have become great at the little things like squaring up and standing still on defense,” he said. “I’ve learned over the years that championships and big matches are won because of the little things.”
Mullahey feels a strong work ethic combined with a balanced roster helped the Cubs go 36-2 this season. Loyola also reached the finals of the CIF-SS Division I tournament.
“We made sure we put in the work day in and day out,” he said. “We had a talented group from 1-16 on the roster. We stayed focused the entire season. We played hard every day and tried to get better. I had great players playing with me. We had great hitters at the pins and in the middle and we had a really good libero (Parker Boehle) that made me look good by keeping the ball at the net.”
Mullahey will take his talents next season to USC. “It’s neat going from a historic program like Loyola with Coach Boehle to a great program like USC,” he said. “I feel like I am going to the best program in the country with the best coach in the country in Bill Ferguson.”
Mullahey will be hard to replace at Loyola due to all the intangibles he brings to the table.
“He will better the ball when it’s in his hands,” Boehle said. “His court awareness, his leadership ability and his ability to run an offense are what a coach dreams of.”
Originally published in August 2012