Former Middleton teammates, coaches remember volleyball stand-out Molly Lillard
MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A daughter, a sister and a stand-out athlete at Middleton high school, Molly Lillard, whose maiden name is Toon, became iconic around Madison with her play on the volleyball court.
First as a two-time all-state selection at Middleton then a three-year starter with the Michigan Wolverines, Molly’s lasting impact on her high school coach Franco Marcos was her high expectations.
“For all the players that I coached in my lifetime she was the only one that would actually challenge the coaches,” said Marcos, who’s coached high school and club volleyball since 1986.
Molly was passed down that competitive fire from her father, Al Toon who played football and ran track at Wisconsin in the mid-80′s before playing in the NFL for seven years.
“She didn’t only demand the best from her teammates but as a coach you have to be on your A-game too.”
Marcos always recognized her want to have the outcome of the match rest on her shoulders too.
“The other great thing about her was when the game was on the line, she wanted that ball. For her it’s like ‘bring it, I’m ready.’”
Laura Wilkinson graduated from Middleton with Molly in 2010 and the two were co-captains their senior year. Wilkinson always looked up to Molly even though they were the same age.
“When I think of Molly I think of someone who was so determined and such an inspiration. Always paving her own path. Always doing things and walking to the beat of her own drum. Her passion for everything on and off the court was unbelievable. She had an infectious energy. It was an honor to play with her and know her.”
While the two became close on the volleyball court, Laura’s favorite memory of Molly was the night before state their senior year. Instead of talking about strategy or their game play, they came up with dances to NSYNC. Wilkinson’s smile beamed when thinking how they just simply enjoyed the moment of being at state.
Marcos echoed how loving and warm Molly was when she finally peeled back her competitive shield.
“On the court, ferocious. ‘Give me the ball’. Off the court, one of the sweetest kids. That’s pretty much their whole family. They’re so caring and giving.”
“She has such a connection in the athletic world. People think of her dad or her brother or whatever. She was just such an amazing person in her own right,” Wilkinson said.
“She has this ability when she’s in the room... you know she’s in the room. She has this energy that’s larger than life.”
Marcos and Wilkinson’s lasting memory of Toon will forever be her smile.
“She always wanted to beat her opponents but off the court, all hugs and well wishes. Very sweet kid.” Marcos said.
“The biggest thing that keeps coming to mind is just her energy and her light. He ability to make people laugh and be so goofy.”
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