By Terry Jacoby/weloveannarbor.com
Watching Kendall Murray play volleyball is a reminder of what the great Barry Sanders said about scoring touchdowns – act like you’ve been there before and you will be back again. Murray’s story has about a dozen interesting starting points but there is something about the way she goes about her business that stands out more than her rising above the net and crushing a kill.
People get to greatness in different ways and Murray’s path has been with class, determination and work ethic all in the framework of the team. So before we get to Murray’s success on a volleyball court – and there is a lot of ground to cover there – let’s talk about character and being a team player.
“I can’t do anything without my team,” she says. “Every time I’m on the court everyone has such a drive to win and everyone has everyone’s back. The team was so supportive of one another. My success is a reflection of this team’s success and how amazing every single person is.”
She might play the part of a superstar but she certainly doesn’t act like it. She rarely shows over-the-top emotion, even after one of her dynamic spikes or blocks or aces. She tends to just smile after a big play and celebrate with her teammates while showing respect for the opposition. She’s a role model to younger players – a great person for others to copy both in the way she plays but more in the way she carries herself.
Still, Murray and her teammates had a “goofy” side.
“Our personality was definitely goofy,” she says. “We had every personality you could ever think of, from people who were super introverted to the biggest extroverts. Everyone had a different personality and I think that’s why we got along so well because everyone kind of balanced each other out. There was never a day at practice when my teammates and I were not smiling and laughing. I loved everyone’s personality and it also really showed on the court too, how much fun we were having.”
They weren’t having a lot of fun at the beginning of the year. Despite coming into the 2018 season with high expectations, the Eagles had trouble getting off the ground.
“We started the season 0-10,” Murray said. “We went to a practice tournament before the season started and the games did not count towards our record and I remember thinking oh no, this season could be either really good or a total disaster.
“After that, we had our breakthrough at our tournament. We beat Monroe and played Saline and had just lost to them by a few points. We realized we were not a team to be pushed around. After those games, we realized how much potential we had and everyone just worked so hard in practice after that.”
With three freshman and two sophomores on the roster, the Eagles were a young team in 2018. They accomplished two of their three goals – winning a District and finally beating Saline. The third goal of winning a Regional fell short in a match with Northville.
“We made Skyline history by making it that far and I could not be more proud of everyone on this team,” Murray said.
Another personality of the Eagles was their never-give-up attitude. They played just as hard up 2-0 as they did down 2-0.
“The team’s competitiveness was so high which made the drive to win even higher,” Murray said. “In practice, we were always competing and pushing each other. In games, we realized that being down 2-0 is not us. I think also this program has gone through so much we really want to show people who we are.”
Like one of her patented kills, Murray’s stats spike of amazement. In her career 166 sets played, she has recorded a staggering 1,126 kills and a .285 hitting percentage. She has 44 blocks, 608 digs and 89 aces – numbers worthy of being a Division 1 volleyball player.
This past season, she had 712 kills, 357 digs and a .327 hitting percentage in 118 sets.
Murray and the Eagles have already identified goals for next season, including beating Bedford and winning Districts again. And speaking of next year, Kendall, the daughter of Sarah and Vada Murray, will have to deal with an “energetic” freshman next season.
Her very talented sister, Harper, will join the Eagles in 2019. Harper, 13, attends Forsythe Middle School this year and like Kendall plays for Legacy Volleyball Club.
“If I could use one word to describe her it would be ‘energetic,’” Kendall says. “She is always talking and moving around. She’s at 100 mph every second. We don’t always get along, mostly because I’m a bit more relaxed than her and she is still young.”
Is she excited to play with her sister next year?
“I’m not going to think about it until I have to,” she says. “But I do think next year will be very special. I think we can go really far and the fact that I may get to do it all with my sister is something special and I would never take for granted.”
After next season, Kendall will move on but she isn’t going far. She has already committed to play for Michigan.
“My dad, Vada Murray, went to Michigan and played football there, winning some Rose Bowls and leaving a big legacy there,” she says proudly. “He died when I was eight of cancer. I thought to myself, how am I supposedt o pick where I want to go to college when the one person who is supposed to be here to help me isn’t? It took me a while to realize that my heart is at Michigan.”
She admits she was concerned about how she could be Kendall Murray at Michigan and not Vada’s daughter.
“After I took all my college visits I went up north to clear my head and see if I could figure out what I wanted,” she says. “After two weeks of just me time, I realized my heart was telling me Michigan. That’s where I want to be and that I can have my legacy without having my dad’s name constantly be over my head. Plus, I am proud to always be Vada’s daughter.”