Talent, hard work have paid off Lafayette’s Phillips
Lafayette’s Moesha Phillips has been going, without a break, ever since volleyball practice in July. To be exact, Phillips hasn’t had any real down time in several years, not with being a four-sport athlete for most of her career. This past summer, heading into her senior year, Phillips worked hard at becoming a better softball player.
She went from the diamond to the volleyball court and when the Lady Commodores were eliminated in the MHSAA Class 4A North Half match against Senatobia, she transitioned right over to Sandra Smith’s powerlifting squad.
When that sport concluded, she picked up her bat and glove again, ready to help Katie Moore’s team reach the playoffs and beyond.
For Phillips, who will graduate with honors later this month, playing sports has always been a part of her makeup. The younger sister to two former standouts at LHS – her oldest brother Jamie played football, basketball and track while Jeffrey Phillips was a standout in swimming and basketball – Phillips has used sports to make her a more well-rounded person.
“I feel like when you play more than one sport, you get your mind set for more than one thing. When I played volleyball, we made it to North Half and for us to not make it to state, it just shows what we’ve got to do, to work hard, to get there and not get halfway and give up,” said Phillips, who said softball has become her most favorite sport. “It’s all around fun. It’s up and down. You never know what’s going to happen, if it’s going to be an easy three up and three down or if the other team is going to come out and score runs, which means you have to come back and hit also.”
Phillips’ first sport to play was basketball. She played in middle school and into high school before leaving in favor of softball.
“Basketball is different breathing. I’m running on hard-wood floor in (the gym) and out here I’m running on dirt and grass. It helped me stay in shape. If I only played one sport, I don’t think I would get down the line half as well as I do now,” Phillips said about what basketball did for her improvement in softball. “It’s training my muscles to go. If you only play one sport, like softball, they’re only ready for softball. I feel like I’m prepared for anything. I’m just getting going. I feel like I can go play at Pearl River.”
Softball is the sport that garnered Phillips a scholarship. She will begin her career at Pearl River next fall, but until then, she is busy trying to help the Lady Commodores reach the 4A finals in softball. Lafayette opens its 4A North Half title series with Houston tonight and her improvement on the field, and more importantly at the plate, is a reason why Lafayette is just two wins from its preseason objective.
“I’ve never seen someone excel when they have so much on their plate. She is well-rounded. She’s got good family support around her. She’s pushed and worked hard,” said Moore, adding that leaving home wasn’t an issue for Phillips. “When she was deciding on schools, she said her brother went to school in Georgia. People were like that’s a big move for her to go that far away. Mo said ‘So far away, that’s not far.’ People are just used to staying at home being in a small town. That’s how I grew up, too. She wasn’t scared of that. She has a lot more of an adventure mindset in her. She’s not limited, her family doesn’t think they have to keep here. They push her to go and expand.”
Phillips’ mother, Clarece and father Willie, have seen their daughter make tremendous strides as a hitter. Greg Lewis, Moore’s assistant coach, has worked with Phillips on her swing for over a year. Lewis had his doubts about how much success she would have on offense, but thanks to her being such a good athlete, from an athletic family, she was able to adapt and improve.
“You don’t find many girls that can hardly play four sports, anywhere. It’s unbelievable what she’s done from last year to this year. Her swing, how much it’s changed, and how awesome she is in the outfield. She’s quick, she can hit, she can bunt it. She’s a complete player now,” Lewis said. “If you would have asked me that last year when Coach Moore asked me to come hit with her, I said ‘Coach, I don’t know if she would be able to hit.’ She has really worked over the summer and started getting it. She’s just a natural athlete. She just needed a little fine tuning and after that she figured it out. I told if we had her just one more year, she would be unbelievable.”
The first move made in Phillips’ improvement involved her move from third base to the outfield, Moore said.
“I didn’t like her at third and I told her I needed her in the outfield. That was the best move, gaining more confidence there. She learns and she listens. She knows what to fix. That’s been her big thing. She knows what’s she swinging at and knows where I want her to put it. That’s why she’s huge on a bunt. If you listen, I’ll tell her ‘Be smart Mo, be smart.’ That means to see where the fielders are playing her and she can put down a bunt or hit the ball. We’re on a whole different communication of what she can do. She’s not limited to anything,” said Moore, who then got with Lewis to change her swing. “A year ago, when Greg and I watched her and had video made of her, we decided to change her swing. She’s not a true lefty, she’s made into being a lefty. We said let’s try her right handed. We were so unsure of the swing from the left side, we thought we could start over on the right side of her swing than fix what was wrong with the left side of her swing. Usually that’s opposite.”
Lewis remembers that Phillips’ timing wasn’t there when he first started working with her, but now, she has the ability to hit with power, or put down a bunt and use her speed to get on base.
“I knew she could be a great fielder, she had the tools for that. I just didn’t know if she could swing it for us. She could bunt it, she could slap, but I didn’t know if she could sit there and hit it. Now she’s proven that you just can’t hardly throw to her. You can’t just play back on her because she’ll bunt and if you come up on her, she will hit it by you,” Lewis said.”She’s pressure on the defense, all the time. She can cover in the outfield. She’s got a great arm on her. In batting practice, she can hit them out. I really believe that when she went and played ball this summer on a travel team, that helped her a lot. That got her over the top.”
Smith wasn’t surprised with how big of a jump Phillips made in softball. For her, it all revolved around the right perspective.
“When our kids play T-ball, we teach them what is important is to have fun. We don’t worry about win-loss. The goal is for them to enjoy playing while introducing them to the game. Well, that’s Moe’s philosophy on sports,” Smith said. “She has God-given talents that she uses to have fun. After all, isn’t high school sports, after its boiled down and shaken out simply a reaction? She has the DNA to be a super athlete, but she doesn’t stress over it. She just enjoys it.”
Phillips is obviously enjoying her success at the plate. She enters the series with Houston hitting a blistering .462. She has 19 RBIs on the year so far and she leads the team with 31 runs scored.
“Most teams expect me to be a small-game hitter. Now I feel confident in doing whichever having worked with Coach Lewis on stuff. They don’t know what to expect. If they scoot in, I feel like I can hit it over their head and if they are playing behind the bases, I feel like I can put it down and get down the line,” she said. “I feel like when people look back, they’re going to realize I’m an all-around player instead of just a volleyball player who is taking up a position in softball. I think they’re going to look at me and say that she did whatever her team needs me to do. I can go play volleyball, I can go play softball and maybe, if they wanted me to, to go run track or something.”
As for her family, which has traveled to games several hours away, the support has been key.
“They’re going to come down and watch me no matter what I’m playing. They’ve always come. I played basketball in middle school. I thought that’s what I was going to do in my career and then I changed to volleyball. Then when I got out here and started playing center field, I knew that’s what I was going to do,” Phillips said.
Carefree and confident, a deadly combination that has resulted in a lot of success for Phillips and Lafayette in several sports this year.