Phillips hits hard

Outside hitter Whitney Phillips knows how to play volleyball. Her love for the fast-paced sport drew her to the game, and her desire to live in an urban environment brought her to Portland.

Outside hitter Whitney Phillips knows how to play volleyball. Her love for the fast-paced sport drew her to the game, and her desire to live in an urban environment brought her to Portland.

The 20-year-old junior transfer from Scottsdale, Ariz., has been an athlete since seventh grade, when she began playing volleyball. She grew up watching her neighbors play and began getting involved, but it was the speed of the game that she says kept her on a court and not on another playing surface.

“I played softball in high school…it was too slow of a pace for me,” she said. “I have a short attention span. [In volleyball] you always have something to do with every play.”

Initially scouted by the Viking volleyball team during her senior year at Desert Mountain High School, Phillips decided to attend New Mexico State for two years before eventually relocating to Portland. And her choice to move here has been a good one for Vikings volleyball.

Phillips leads the Big Sky Conference with 4.68 kills per set and ranks sixth in the NCAA in the same category. She also leads the conference with her 5.08 points per set, putting her 16th in the nation.

Due in part to her play, the team is in a three-way tie for first place with Eastern Washington and Northern Colorado going into the second half of conference play.

Before coming to Portland State, Phillips was joined at New Mexico State by her twin sister, Kelsi, and both women played for the school. However, transfer eligibility rules kept Kelsi off the court for games, and they only practiced together. Whitney said she enjoyed playing volleyball with her sister again.

“We grew up playing together, so it was fun,” she said.

After two years at New Mexico State, Phillips decided it was time for a change, and she traded the Southwest for the Northwest. She is happy with the move, and said she particularly likes the atmosphere of the campus.

“I needed a change from the college town I came from,” Phillips said. “The girls here are great…they have really helped make the transition easier.”

The biggest change—she said while laughing—was “all the rain.”

Associate head coach Jeff Mozzochi said the team is happy to have Phillips.

“She’s a skilled player, and the competitiveness and energy level she brings is consistent, even at practice. We knew she would fit in with what we have going with our program,” he said.

Phillips is a modest athlete and, to some extent, soft spoken. Of her leadership style, Mozzochi said, “She won’t yell at the girls. She leads by example.”

It is not hard to see the example she sets. This season, Phillips has led the team in kills in 17 out of 19 games, chalked up seven double-doubles and has gone over 20 kills in six matches. Last year, a Viking only broke 20 kills once.

Mozzochi said Phillips is an all around athlete that has, “All the parts of her game…she’s one of the best.”

Despite moving to Portland to get closer to an urban environment, Phillips is not the typical downtown woman.

She lives outside the city, with one of the reasons being that she wanted a large backyard for her dog, Koda. Off the court, her main interests are down to earth.

“I love just going outdoors, exploring and hiking,” she said.

Phillips is a finance major, though she is not certain about a specific career goal. In the near future, she is hoping to go back home to Arizona in the summer, where she wants to train and find an internship.

Vikings volleyball is thrilled she found her way out of the desert heat and into the Portland rain. A strong offensive player, she not only brings skill as an athlete but also leadership as a teammate.

“She’s everything we hoped for,” Mozzochi said.