At Trinity, junior Sarah Mullens has found her people, the trusted few to whom she can fully open up. For the rest of us though, the talented defensive hitter remains a mystery; a quiet introvert with a dark, sarcastic sense of humor and an untold story. She grew up in Aurora, Colorado, and started volleyball at the age of eight years old, with her mom as her coach. Even when she played for other coaches, each time she made a mistake she would look up the stands at her mother. The 5A-state MVP now serves as defensive setter for the Tigers, earning numerous SCAC accolades. Yet, after all her years on the court, Mullens finds herself looking to the stands.

“Even now in college I’ll find myself glancing up at my mom and my mom will give me a tip and I’m like, ‘Damn, this has been a long time coming,’ ” Mullens said.

Mrs. Mullens, a Clemson volleyball alumnae, has always had high expectations for her children.

“My whole life, it’s been me trying to match her and me not quite getting there. She was a National Merit Scholar and I’m a National Merit Commended Scholar. She got a 34 on her ACT, and I got a 33,”

While her mother, who earned a 4.0 GPA as an engineering major on a full athletic scholarship, excelled in math and science, Sarah is passionate about reading, writing, art and music. When told her family wouldn’t be able to afford Trinity’s tuition, Mullens put her English abilities to real-world use, winning the Trinity Tower Scholars scholarship, something she counts as her greatest collegiate accomplishment. Despite her passion for English, Mullens decided her sophomore year to pursue business. She describes a tearful phone conversation in which her mother gave her some advice.    

“ [She told me,]‘Your entire life, you’re gonna have things you don’t wanna do,’ ” Mullens said.

At her family’s suggestion, Mullens plans to attend law school after graduation. Still, she recognizes her responsibility in choosing her own path.

“I’ve been trying to be able to find the fine line between being able to do the things I love in a way that makes other people happy. But, at the end of the day, I’m gonna be left with my own decisions and if I make those decisions for someone else, I’m going to be unhappy,” Mullens said.

Trinity has been a place of growth and discovery for Mullens. She let go of the idea of being everyone’s friend, and focused on planting deep roots with people who understand her.  

“A lot of people have the misconception that you need to have a lot of friends in order to be fulfilled. What I was finding is a lot of those friends I didn’t actually connect to. It was more just small talk, so now I’m a lot more comfortable having a few close friends. It’s so hard to find people that understand you and are willing to take the time to understand you especially when you’re not one of those people who shows everything at once. It takes a lot of time to get to know me and for me to be fully comfortable around someone,” Mullens said.

Those few close friends are teammates Amelia Roden and Jessye Castro, with whom Mullens can talk about anything.

“I don’t have any problems voicing my opinions. I don’t have to manipulate how I’m feeling to go with what they’re feeling cause we can just be very honest and I feel the same way about — this is stupid, but me and [my boyfriend] Trevor, I have never had to try to be anything other than what I feel and I think that’s really important,” Mullens said.

Despite all her growth, volleyball remains the one constant in Sarah Mullens’ life. Yet, she knows it won’t always be that way.

“That’s also part of maturing. Knowing you only have a finite number of times to step out on the court and trying to take advantage of those times. I’m confident that I can make the right decisions about things now. The decisions we’re making now are gonna start becoming more and more permanent,” Mullens said.

Mullens currently leads the Tigers with aces and digs, and is in the top-10 Trinity leaders of all time, but like with all athletes, just because you know her stats doesn’t mean you know her story.