Volleyball: Former Joliet Catholic star Murphy reaches ultimate goal of playing for Team USA
By Tim O’Brien For Sun-Times Media July 19, 2013 6:34PM
Updated: August 22, 2013 6:48AM
Kelly Murphy has heard the national anthem hundreds of times, maybe thousands.
Hearing it this time was something different, something better.
The former Joliet Catholic volleyball star heard the anthem as a member of the U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team, wearing the U.S. jersey and surrounded by her teammates.
For Murphy, whose lifelong dream was to play for Team USA, the wait most definitely was worth it.
“It’s everything you think it would be,” Murphy said during a recent phone interview from California. “I’m listening to the national anthem and thinking ‘Wow, I’m on Team USA and playing with the best athletes in the world, and this is where I want to be.’ ”
Murphy, who helped lead Joliet Catholic to third- and fourth-place finishes at state before continuing her volleyball career at the University of Florida, was invited to practice with Team USA during the spring. The 6-foot-2 opposite/setter was named to the roster in June as Team USA headed to Lima, Peru, for the Pan American Cup. The U.S. swept five matches to defend its title.
Watching her daughter play wearing the red, white and blue had Sandy Murphy beaming with pride.
“It was a childhood dream to play with the national team, and it was something she talked about since starting volleyball,” Sandy Murphy said. “That’s the ultimate goal. It’s her dream, and she’s going at it.”
Playing time has been sparse through the early going, but Murphy has seen the court, earning her first start in a three-set win over Brazil at the Pan American Cup. She finished with 10 kills and a block in the victory.
Murphy also saw her share of playing time earlier in the month when Team USA played three matches against Japan in California.
“I’m not starting, but I’m in a rotation as an opposite and setter across the front row,” Murphy said. “I’m playing almost every match. USA really emphasizes practicing like you play. Scrimmage or a match, play like it’s a gold-medal match. (Playing), I try not to let the nerves get to me.”
In between matches and tournaments, Murphy and her teammates are practicing daily, usually going two or three sessions. For a volleyball nut like Murphy, she’s eating it up.
“I’m used to it now (the grind),” Murphy said with a laugh. “You never really know what’s coming (with the team), so I keep working hard and hope to stay injury-free.”
Team USA has tournaments in August and September. Murphy hopes to go back to Florida to finish her degree, then hopefully sign with a pro team, possibly in Europe. (She played over the winter and in the spring with a pro team in Puerto Rico).
Another goal may be playing with Team USA in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Murphy said. “It is different being a pro, where at school you had to balance volleyball and school. It is a job, and you get used to it. I put the time in and allow your body to recover.”
Her high school coach, Joliet Catholic’s Christine Scheibe, knows the sky’s the limit for Murphy.
“With her talent and work ethic, she never took anything for granted,” Scheibe said. “Kelly didn’t rest on her talent, and she worked on all aspects of her game. She saw she might have that potential.”