Former MIAC foe becomes a Royal, calls it one of the “best decisions of [her] career.”
by Kelly Hinseth
A week into her sophomore year, Molly O’Toole was unpacked and ready to begin her second year at St. Mary’s University in Winona, Minn. Those plans changed drastically after one phone call, when she learned the head coach of the women’s basketball team would not be returning for the upcoming season. With this in mind, O’Toole packed her things and headed for Arden Hills.
O’Toole is beginning her first year at Bethel, but her story is not one of a typical transfer student. Last year, O’Toole was a mainstay in the Cardinal starting lineup. She led Saint Mary’s in scoring and rebounding, at 11.7 and 5.2 rebounds per game.
The power forward hails from Plymouth, Minn. where she played for three years on the varsity squad for Hopkins High School, and won state championships in all three seasons. “After the buzzer went off having won our second state championship, I remember jumping into my sister, Erin’s arms.” O’Toole said. She said that playing alongside her sister was one of the biggest highlights of her high school career.
After graduating in 2014, O’Toole committed to play for Mandy Pearson at Saint Mary’s after talking to a few of the different MIAC schools. O’Toole said she felt God calling her there right after high school.
In addition to posting gaudy individual numbers, O’Toole tasted success with her Cardinal teammates, advancing to MIAC playoffs, finishing with an overall record of 18–9. “I had a pretty good experience there overall,” O’Toole said, “but I knew I could be happier.”
After the coach accepted the head coaching position at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, O’Toole felt it was her time to leave as well. “I felt that after she took that job, it was my turn as well to move on and close that chapter and start something new,” she said.
Shortly thereafter, she turned to Bethel. “Throughout the highs and lows of my experiences at Saint Mary’s, Bethel was always at the back of my mind,” O’Toole said.
O’Toole called up women’s head coach, Jon Herbrechtsmeyer, who was an old family friend. Herbrechtsmeyer was on vacation in Washington D.C. at the time of learning of Molly’s desire to come to Bethel. “I was just really excited about the possibility of this happening,” Herbrechtsmeyer said.
The final decision to make the move to Bethel seemed to have happened in a matter of a split second. “It was a surreal experience,” Herbrechtsmeyer said. He credits all of the work to get O’Toole to Bethel to the quality and timely work of admissions and financial aid.
O’Toole visited Bethel’s campus on a Saturday, already having moved back to Saint Mary’s campus as an Resident Assistant. On her visit, she met with Herbrechtsmeyer, broke the news to her friends, moved her stuff out of the St. Mary’s dorms and quit her job as an RA. The following day, she moved her stuff in at Bethel.
“It was totally a matter of trusting in God that I was able to make the decision so quickly,” O’Toole said.
Currently sidelined with an injury to her patella, O’Toole said trusting in God is something she’s had to do a lot more of recently. She had microscopic surgery in February to repair the cartilage in her knee and is currently going through rehab. “At this point, I am just praying and trusting God through this whole process,” O’Toole said. “This game is such a huge part of my life and I can’t picture life without it.”
Basketball is not the only thing she is involved in at Bethel this year. The week she moved in, O’Toole, a social work major, accepted a position as a BUILD mentor. “They’re so awesome and fun,” O’Toole said of the BUILD students. “I love working with them. It’s so rewarding.”
The quick decision to transfer is not one that O’Toole regrets. “I can honestly say so far that it’s been one of the best decisions of my career,” O’Toole said. “Being with this team is like being with a family. I’ve never been on a team that made me feel so involved, it trumps any other team I have ever been on.”