After knocking off city rival Huron in a classic back-and-forth SEC Red Division match earlier this month, Skyline’s Kendal Murray said one of the keys to the win was finishing. The sophomore did her share of “finishing” that night, delivering several huge spikes that the River Rats had no chance to get to, let alone return.
Murray is far from finishing what she hopes to accomplish in her high school career. One of the top players in the area if not the state, Murray is only a sophomore with plenty of time to fill out her already impressive skill-set.
She’s already committed to play at the University of Michigan when she’s done flying high as a Skyline Eagle.
Skyline Coach Chris Cristian is looking forward to coaching her for the rest of this exciting season and the next two years.
“She’s a very good player,” he said. “She’s really committed to the team. And she’s only a sophomore so there is still a lot of room to grow and improve.”
Being “committed to the team” is something that is very important to Murray, who is not going through the motions with one eye on being a Wolverine. She has both eyes and complete focus where it needs to be and that’s on the team, something she talked about right away after the big win over Huron a few weeks ago.
“We started out a little slow and we weren’t playing as a team but throughout the game we started playing better,” said Murray, emphasizing the importance of teamwork. “Our goals haven’t changed. We are looking forward to Districts but we are going to take things one game at a time. We play for the present and try not to look ahead.
“We try and stay in the moment and just focus on what’s right ahead of us.”
What’s right ahead for the Eagles is a matchup at Dexter at 7 p.m. on Tuesday. The Dreadnaughts are having an outstanding season, having recently knocked off Huron at a tournament in Jackson and going undefeated in SEC White matchups including a four-set win over rival Chelsea last week.
It sets up a great crossover matchup between SEC teams. And Murray will certainly be right in the middle of all the action and a player Dexter will have to be concerned about from the opening serve.
Going to Michigan was actually an easy decision for the talented volleyball player. She did look at a few other schools including Purdue, Pittsburgh and Maryland, but in the end she knew that Maize and Blue are her true colors.
“It’s a great feeling knowing that I’m going to be playing for Michigan,” she said. “It’s such a family culture there. It just felt right and where I belong.”
And family is one of the big reasons why Murray is staying “home” for college.
Kendal is the daughter of Sarah and Vada Murray, an Ann Arbor police officer who played football at Michigan. Vada, who passed away after a long battle with advanced-stage lung cancer at the age of 43 in April 2011, was a free safety for the Wolverines (1988-90).
“Going to Michigan is one way to honor my dad,” Kendal said. “It will be awesome to be a Wolverine just like he was. That means a lot to me.”
While she already has her college picked out, Murray isn’t against picking up new challenges. She even gave water polo a try last season. And not only did she enjoy it, she also feels like it helped her on the volleyball court. There is, after all, a ball and net involved in both – with the obvious difference being water.
“Yeah, it was different but fun,” she says. “It improved my volleyball game so much because I got really strong. The team was great, too. So much fun.”
There also are challenges on the volleyball court. Murray always is striving to get better.
“I need to work on my transition,” she says. “Also, being a good teammate and making connections with all the girls and helping to create a family atmosphere on the team. I think that’s really important. And if there is anything I can do to help them have fun or get better, I want to be there for them.”
Volleyball is not an individual sport. It takes a team, or a family, to be successful. What’s more impressive than her already great skills on the court is that Murray already understands this – that this great sport is a team game. And teams that play like a team are the ones still standing at the end.
And when asked what her goals were, she put team first.
“We have a really tough District with Huron and Dexter,” she said. “Our goal is to win Districts. We will probably even be an underdog in that District but we can use that to our advantage.”
Another advantage is having Kendal Murray on the floor.