By Whitney Jones, News Editor
Two of Union’s best female athletes — Amy Philamlee and Savannah Hughes — have much more in common than graduating from the same high school. The two players were both named TranSouth Freshman of the Year in their respective sports.
Before coming to Union, Philamlee and Hughes walked across the same stage to graduate last spring from the same high school in Jonesboro, Ark., and attended the same church.
“We’ve known each other since kindergarten,” Hughes said.
Philamlee is a guard for the Lady Bulldogs basketball team, and Hughes is an outside hitter for the volleyball team.
Although the two women went to high school together and have played on the same basketball and volleyball teams, attending Union was not a joint decision for these two friends.
Philamlee, undecided major, said her interest in Union started early — her sophomore year of high school — when Mark Campbell, head women’s basketball coach and instructor of physical education, began recruiting her for the Lady Bulldogs. She committed to Union and the team the summer before her senior year.
“I visited here and I just fell in love with it,” Philamlee said. “I like the basketball team and the Christian aspect of it all.”
Campbell said Philamlee is both determined and tough, qualities that played a role in her success on the court.
“She’s a perfect fit for Union University in every way — spiritually, athletically, academically — so (recruiting Philamlee) was a no-brainer,” Campbell said.
Similarly, Hughes’ coach, Kelly Elliott, said when she met the award-winning player she knew Hughes would make an “immediate impact” on the volleyball team because of her high standards and work ethic.
Hughes, a pre-optometry/biology major, began considering Union after attending Centrifuge, a summer camp on Union’s campus, during her sophomore, junior and senior years at Valley View High School.
Being a self-starter, Hughes called the university after researching the volleyball team and was eventually recruited to play. Elliott, who will not be coaching next year, said this trait of Hughes is a benefit for her both on and off the court.
“The truly great players, you see them being very self-motivated and self-disciplined,” Elliott said. “You see that in her play and her desire to be the best that she can be.
“More importantly, I think many times there’s something that a player has to have that’s just kind of special, whether it’s the ‘it’ factor or whatever you want to call it. She has that.”
The honor of TranSouth Freshman of the Year is determined by a vote from all the coaches in the division, Elliott said. She added that each coach must vote for a player not on their team.
The success of both women shows the strength of Valley View High School’s athletic program, Elliott added.
Both athletes said the Freed-Hardeman rivalry highlighted their respective seasons, but they said they are looking forward to new rivalries that will form in the coming years of NCAA Division II.
Philamlee said winning against Freed-Hardeman this month was the high point of her season.
“It was the best atmosphere ever. … I love playing because it was a packed house, and it was against our rival. It was the conference championship game and we won.”